One of the joys of  being a movie critic is being surprised by new or under-sung talent.

Mo McRae isn’t really a new actor. He had a recurring role in “Sons of Anarchy,” and I remember him from “The First Purge.” He’s an incredible talent.

His costar, Nate Boyer, has a biography that could make a movie in itself. A Green Beret, he served six years in the Army in Afghanistan and Iraq, and he played football after that. Now he has co-written and directed this drama about lost athletes and soldiers recovering from their time in uniform.

McRae plays the hard-drinking, wealthy Will Phillips, an NFL football player who has come to the end of his career.  He doesn’t know what to do with himself, and he keeps his concerned wife at a distance while he struggles over what to do next.

Boyer plays Zephyr, who works as a parking-lot attendant during the day and stays with other veterans in a shelter at night.

One night, Will drinks particularly hard, and Zephyr finds him and ensures that he makes it home safely. Although Zephyr pushes the grateful Will away, the persistent Will strikes up a tentative friendship with the tormented Zephyr, who hasn’t come to grips with who he is off the battlefield.

There is an earnestness and authenticity in this drama that’s a rarity. Yes, it’s overly long and could have used some editing. But Boyer also makes some terrific directorial decisions, especially in two scenes, when characters come face-to-face after a crisis. We don’t watch exactly what happens afterward, and that makes the film even better. The audience doesn’t need to see those moments because the encounters alone portray character development.

Watch this drama for a touching story, wonderful performances by actors who deserve recognition, and a tribute to an unusual brotherhood.

3 stars

Rated: R for foul language and violence.

Running time: One hour and 52 minutes.

Streaming on Apple TV+ and Prime Video.

Watch the trailer here.