Home (2020) – Film Review

Director: Franka Potente

Writer: Franka Potente

Starring: Jake McLaughlin, Kathy Bates, Aisling Franciosi, Derek Richardson, James Jordan, Lil Rel Howery, and Stephen Root

Rating: ★★★

Franka Potente makes her directorial debut with Home, which she also wrote the screenplay for. It’s a story of redemption, guilt, and above all else family. It’s a slow-burn drama that takes it’s time to tell a story, focusing on the personal rather than the sensational.

For the last seventeen years Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) has been doing time for murdering an old woman in his neighbourhood. Now that he’s out of prison he returns home to find his mother (Kathy Bates) is dying of cancer, and the community haven’t forgiven him. He must face the family of the woman he killed, as well as facing his own mother’s mortality.

The actual murder is kept a mystery for the entire film. You never get the full details of it, what actually happened or why Marvin did what he did. Instead, you just get glimpses, and it’s done in a powerful way. There’s a moment where someone says the last time they saw Marvin, he had blood all over his shoes. Another moment where his mother breaks down in tears because the woman was her friend. The murdered woman’s grandson says she wasn’t a nice person, and sometimes he wanted to kick her. It builds a picture, without letting you see the whole thing. The closest we get is when Marvin visits the scene of the crime and just stands there with strange music playing the background.

The murder isn’t important though, it’s the present that’s the focus of the story. Marvin is looking for redemption, he’s done his time and now is looking to move forward. He’s missed out on a lot over the last seventeen years. He’s not sure how to use a smartphone, people don’t listen to CDs anymore, and he hasn’t kept up to date with his family and those that have been lost while he’s been in prison. Marvin is a man out of time, and it weighs on him. By focusing on the present and the way Marvin is trying to re-join society Home is a very moving film at points, there’s a rawness to everything that feels very real and authentic.

Everyone in the main cast is absolutely great. Jake McLaughlin and Kathy Bates both deliver exceptional performances and really work well together whenever they’re on screen together. The rebuilding of their relationship is the highlight of the film, just seeing them playing games is enough to keep you hooked. Lil Rel Howery is as excellent as ever as the carer who has been looking after Marvin’s mother while she’s been ill. It’s a more subdued performance than his normal loud comedy, and Howery is still great at it.

The biggest issue with the film is some of the characters just don’t act human. When Marvin first makes his way to town, he meets a woman who works at a café who just offers to make out with him for no reason, then he goes into a convenience store for coffee and gets strange service by the checkout lady and her boss. They act in the most bizarre ways imaginable, and they would be more at home in the town of Twin Peaks. Then there’s the priest, Father Browning (Stephen Root), who seems to have no faith himself, other than to forgive. He insults the people in the church during his sermon, and then sits down at the end of it taking of his vestment.

The strangest way someone acts, and what will be the biggest hurdle the film has to jump to keep your attention, is that Delta (Aisling Franciosi) falls in love with Marvin, despite it being her grandma who he murdered. She seems to forgive him way to easily, and there’s not much in the way of an explanation for that. Delta says she doesn’t remember her grandma’s mother, just the person she was, but it’s still a stretch. If you can let that one slide, then the rest of the film will be really moving, but that plot point will be a hard mountain to get over for some.

Home is a really strong drama, if you can ignore the flaws in its characters. It’s filled with strong performances, and by side-stepping explaining or justifying the murder it also avoids some of the usual clichés of redemption stories. Jack McLaughlin is great in it.

Home will be available on Digital Download from 24th January

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About ashleymanningwriter

Young Adult Fiction writer. Horror and fantasy blended together.
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