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New Release Review [VOD] - HOME

home review
A convicted killer returns to his unwelcoming hometown.

Review by Eric Hillis

Directed by: Franka Potente

Starring: Jake McLaughlin, Kathy Bates, Aisling Franciosi, Stephen Root, Lil Rel Howery

home poster

The German actress Franka Potente makes her debut as writer/director not with a drama set in her homeland but in that part of the world that has attracted so many European filmmakers over the decades - rural America. While some filmmakers have brought an outsider's insight to this milieu, there's always the danger that such a setting is merely being co-opted for a cheap bit of poverty porn. Unfortunately that's the case with Home.

home review

Potente begins with a cliched premise, that of an ex-convict returning to his hometown where he committed his crime. The first-time filmmaker sets herself something of a challenge by making said crime particularly reprehensible. 17 years ago Marvin Hacks (Jake McLaughlin) kicked an elderly woman to death in the street. Now he's been released from prison and has made his way home, on a skateboard of all things.

Awaiting Marvin is his mother, Bernadette (Kathy Bates), who has stage 4 cancer and hasn't seen her son since his crime, whose victim was one of her own friends. The movie is at its most convincing in the scenes between Marvin and Bernadette, as the latter gradually begins to accept her son back into her life. In these moments both characters feel like real people rather than the white trash stereotypes they're initially sketched as.

home review

The same can't be said for the rest of the characters who populate Potente's debut. The first person Marvin encounters on his return home is a waitress who offers him a cigarette and some no strings sex. We then meet more characters who don't remotely behave like human beings. Most laughable of all is Stephen Root as a priest who calls his congregation "assholes" during mass. Lil Rel Howery has a thankless role as Bernadette's caregiver. It's one of those tone-deaf colour-blind parts, and as such it never reckons with his first encounter with Marvin, who tackles him to the ground believing him to be an intruder in his mother's home.

But the most problematic aspect of Home is the scolding tone it adopts to those townsfolk who refuse to forgive Marvin for his crime, particularly the victim's grandchildren. The woman's granddaughter, Delta (Aisling Franciosi), becomes an unlikely yet all too obvious love interest for Marvin, but Potente's script is thoroughly unconvincing in bringing these two people together. Marvin and Delta's relationship is like a gritty cousin of that oft-mocked coupling of Zach Braff and Natalie Portman in Garden State. While she's too beaten down by life to be considered a manic pixie dream girl, Delta never comes off as anything greater than an unearned reward for the film's male protagonist. Weere this film made by a male filmmaker it would no doubt be accused of indulging in tired male fantasies, so it's strange to see a woman continue such a trend.

home review

Potente's film is partly salvaged by the strength of her cast. Even if the script is too superficial to convince us we're watching real people, McLaughlin, Franciosi and Bates do their darnedest to keep us engaged. In his first lead role outside of TV, McLaughlin is certainly an engaging presence, but no matter how many times his character apologises, we never quite believe that he has been carrying this burden for 17 years. He seems to have forgiven himself a little too easily, something the film itself is guilty of. Even the most liberal of viewers will struggle to buy into the idea that a town's population should find a way to forgive a man who brutally murdered an elderly woman in their streets. And practically everyone will be unconvinced by the notion of the victim's granddaughter falling head over heels with her killer.

 is on UK/ROI VOD from January 24th.

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