From Todd McCarthy‘s 2014 Sundance review in The Hollywood Reporter: “The generically titled War Story is a rigorous and enigmatic behavioral study of a professional photographer traumatized by what she’s recently experienced in a combat zone. Fronted by an outstanding performance from Catherine Keener, who is onscreen, often by herself, at almost every moment, this challenging but not difficult second feature from Mark Jackson parcels out its information in gradual increments, forcing the viewer to infer rather simply receive most narrative information.
“War Story has a flat-line narrative in which no single event is either more or less important than any other, and there is no attempt at building up to and accentuating ‘big’ scenes in a dramaturgical manner. With the excellent young cinematographer Reed Morano (Frozen River, Kill Your Darlings), Jackson employs a ‘following’ camera style much of the time, going with Lee wherever she goes, sometimes in quite long takes. It’s all beautifully filmed.
“Without recourse to her familiar humor and sense of irony, Keener is obliged to dig deep to convey profound inner turmoil, sorrow and uncertainty. During the first long stretch when we know nothing about what’s consuming her and her behavior is so erratic, the effect is greatly unsettling. Gradually, her grief is channeled into what she can view as positive action, even if her effectiveness is questionable at best. \
“In fact, the film’s conclusion is quite unsatisfying in its lack of clarity as to what we’re supposed to believe takes place; Hafsia has clearly made up her mind about something but it’s impossible to know what she’s decided, leaving the viewer, and presumably Lee, in the lurch, a seemingly unfair gesture considering the sincere investment made in connecting the dots up to then.”