DVD Review: “Squatters” Is An Affecting Movie About Life On The Streets


Review by James McDonald

Home early from their vacation, a wealthy Pacific Palisades family discover a pair of homeless young drifters who are squatting in their home.

“Squatters” tells the story of Kelly (Gabriella Wilde) and Jonas (Thomas Dekker), two young drifters who live on the streets of Pacific Palisades. They sleep on the beach at night and rummage through trash cans and dumpsters during the day in order to survive. One morning, while looking for food, Jonas overhears Evelyn (Lolita Davidovich), an obviously wealthy socialite, talking to her housekeeper about checking in on their house while her and her family are on vacation. She eventually leaves and Jonas follows her to her house and within a few days, he has moved Kelly and himself into their temporary abode. Once there, Kelly just wants to freshen up and take a long, hot bath. Jonas on the other hand, is only interested in what he can find, jewelry, money, cars, with the intent of selling as much of them as possible and moving to Mexico to live off the grid.

As they live their new pretend life, Kelly finds home videos of the family, from years ago up to the present and as she watches them nightly, she finds herself bonding with the family, even though she has never met them. One night the family arrives home earlier than expected and Kelly manages to slip out the back door undetected. She waits down the street for Jonas and eventually flags him down and they turn around and leave. This is bad news for Jonas as he made a deal with a treacherous drug dealer who wants one of the family’s cars in particular. They stop at a coffee shop and when the chance presents itself, she slips out the back door, wanting to get away from Jonas once and for all. Unbeknownst to her, a chance meeting at a movie theater between her and Michael (Luke Grimes), the only son of the family whose house Jonas just robbed, will lead her down an unfamiliar but auspicious road.

The plot takes its time setting up the story and the characters and because of this, the movie works. Director Martin Weisz (“The Hills Have Eyes II”) paints a somber picture of life on the streets, exhibiting the contrasting character traits of our two leads. When Kelly and Jonas first explore the house, she wants to take a bath and let weeks of accumulative filth and pollution wash away while Jonas just wants to find anything he can turn around and sell. Kelly is soft-spoken and cares about others and while Jonas initially gives the impression that he cares about Kelly, his actions prove otherwise. At a movie theater Kelly inadvertently bumps into Michael, the son of the owners of the house she and Jonas inhabited and he is immediately smitten with her and while she tries to appear uninterested, she eventually succumbs to his charm and genuine warmth. In many ways though, she has the upper hand, having watched all of the family’s home videos and because of this, she has insights into him and his family that he is not yet aware of.

After a period of time, he invites her to his parent’s house for dinner but she refuses, telling him that she is not ready but he gently persuades her and she reluctantly agrees. Of course, things don’t go well as Jonas turns up with a gun in hand and we head towards an explosive finale. Director Martin Weisz draws out some wonderful performances from the film’s young cast and it was great seeing seasoned pros Richard Dreyfuss and Lolita Davidovich make an appearance. In the end, while the film doesn’t shy away from portraying real life on the streets, it was refreshing to see two very different characters from disparate backgrounds connecting with each other and not caring what the world says about them or, indeed, their situation.

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James McDonald
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