Coward is a moving short film war drama based on the tale of two cousins that leave the countryside of Ireland to fight in the First World War. In the brutally cold and unforgiving trench warfare of the battlegrounds of Ypres in Belgium 1917, two boyhood friends set out to find adventure. Instead they are victim to enemy fire by inner chauvinisms, politics and eventual discriminations of the British Army.
What makes Coward such a gripping short film is not just the action and violence it brings for the action junkies. It is the raw human nature that is lost with our protagonist Andrew (Martin McCann). The moral ambiguity or ambivalence is shaken to the core and the loss of innocence is always the first casualty. Even though he has been in many battles, it only takes one moment in one conflict to break the spirit of a soldier. Even after battles that are won or lost, there are no true winners in war. In the end, it is the dead that will see the end of war and for those who survived will be haunted.
Coward focuses its narrative drive in a time when soldiers were seen as deserters, cowards and disobedient. For the act of such cowardice, they were put on trial and even executed. At the time where psychological injury was unknown, Andrew’s journey was seen as a voyage to pusillanimity and loss of honour. In reality our protagonist’s sanity is pushed to the point of no return, as his innocence is stripped away from him; even though, in the eyes of his officers, he seemed an abled body. Sadly his mind was the victim of shellshock. The stresses of trench warfare and his position repeatedly shelled caused a mental break down, that left our Irish soldiers lost. His fragile heart and innocent soul was broken by too much combat, death, devastation and to whoever saw this young man now, was not the same.
With a compelling narrative and touching story, director Dave Roddham had certainly made a powerful war film. It is no surprise when he has worked as special effects technician for both Steven Spielberg’s Saving Private Ryan (1998) and War Horse (2011). Its solid performance from a great cast, a subject that focuses on the untold stories of the horrors of WW1, gives Coward a tragically dark and thrilling short independent film.