Young Bodies Heal Quickly, Andrew T. Betzer’s first feature after a storied career as a short film-maker, is about as personal as a narrative fiction can get: Betzer wrote, directed, produced, edited and even color-graded the film. But in this case, “personal” doesn’t mean a regurgitation of the filmmaker’s latest breakup or childhood ups and downs. It means a highly idiosyncratic take on storytelling, in which the viewer is thrown in the deep end from the enigmatic first shot and carried along by the hurtling young bodies of two brothers who do a bad thing and have to get out of town fast. Set in godforsaken parts of Maryland and structured as a picaresque road film in five main episodes, Young Bodies Heal Quickly is as unpredictable as the boys’ off-the-grid father yet crystal clear in its intent to present an unflinching exploration of masculinity and the transmission of violence. If there is anything else out there like it, I haven’t seen it.
At the age twenty, Older escapes incarceration and seeks out his ten year old little brother, Younger. Clearly the bad influence, Older gets the boys mixed up in the “accidental” killing of a young girl and they are forced to go into hiding as they wait for their mother to rescue them. Thanks to their mother, the brothers now have a car and enough money to begin their bizarre road trip. Along the way, they encounter a host of people ranging from their unwelcoming sister to a troubled maid and her violent lover. Eventually, they wind up on the doorstep of their father’s compound, wherein the three of them are quickly reminded why they are estranged in the first place. Just as the walls are about to close in, their father packs up his brood and takes them on a road trip of his own. They join several militaria enthusiasts in a remote forest where they re-enact actual Vietnam War battles. Once in the “jungle,” the three of them revert to hostile tendencies building up to a final confrontation between father and sons, leaving the audience to decide what is real and what is make believe.