One of the beautiful outcomes of this film is that while we are rigorously situated alongside Agu’s experience of a confusing, shifting war — we are also given the gift of a film without any pure evil. The Commandant is the charismatic messiah who gives Agu a purpose and a context of meaning when both of things are stripped from him (when he is separated from his family and experiences violent loss), but he is also an ambitious, bloodthirsty brainwasher who uses boys and their vulnerability to make his own fortune. Finally though the Commandant, like everyone else in this film, is shown to be powerfully formed by forces much larger than they can even imagine, resist or make sense of.
The film is harrowing to watch but if we cannot bear witness to the kinds of truths that it articulates, our own courage seems even smaller in the face of what these children and humans have experienced. While difficult to watch, the subjectivity of the narration acts as a life raft to us throughout. The memories are idiosyncratic, strung together impressionistically in a way that is full of feeling and beauty, even in the moments of shock and horror.