Movie Review: ‘Home’

Review by James Lindorf

German actress Franka Potente best known for her roles in “Run Lola Run” and the Bourne franchise, makes her feature film debut as a writer and director with the emotional drama “Home.” This story of an ex-con looking for a bit of normalcy and maybe acceptance after 17 years in prison will have a limited theatrical release on December 3rd, the same day it will be available on digital platforms.

“Home” opens on Marvin Hacks (Jake McLaughlin) leaving prison and a beautiful shot of him skateboarding down a lonely stretch of desert highway. Marvin slowly makes his way towards an unknown destination with no sense of urgency. Stopping for lunch, he has had his first positive interaction in years. One of the diner’s waitresses admires many crudely drawn tattoos, or maybe she has a thing for redheads, gives him a couple of cigarettes, and offers herself if he plans on sticking around awhile. Marvin politely declines with the simple phrase that he needs to get home before continuing his slow ride down the desolate road. The diner isn’t his last stop on his way home, and the closer he gets, the more people seem unhappy to see him again. Their reactions, plus the starting point of his trip, really call into question who is waiting for him and what kind of reception he can expect once he makes it home.

Now almost 40, Marvin sets foot in his former home wearing the same Adidas tracksuit he wore when he was arrested to find his ill mother Bernadette (Kathy Bates) dying of cancer. Her only source of companionship comes from her caretaker Jayden (Lil Rel Howery). Around town, Marvin meets up with his best friend Wade (Derek Richardson), who is struggling with addiction, and Delta (Aisling Franciosi), a single mother, hospital janitor, part-time drug dealer, and granddaughter of the woman he killed. Marvin tries to rebuild their relationship over the little time he has left with her, but it isn’t always easy. Bernadette was left behind to face the ire of the town, who needed someone to take their frustrations out on for Marvin’s crime.

The story is the definition of a slow burn. Days, weeks, months go by without a real sense of time and no rush to get somewhere. This is a story about this particular time in Marvin’s life as he tries to make connections and be a better person than he was before. Given the circumstances, you know these characters are feeling intense emotions, but the presentation always feels on an even keel. No matter how good or bad things get, the film maintains its energy level. It feels very natural and allows life to sneak upon us. The world of “Home” doesn’t celebrate his wins or glorify his pain. Some people will always hate him, others come to find an uneasy middle ground, and then a few see a contrite man trying to do his best, and they can accept that for what it is. His relationships with those few is where the heart and power of “Home” lives.

It should come as no shock that the film is carried by its performances with a talented and experienced actress behind the camera. The transformation of Bernadette from an angry, bitter person who lets Marvin come home out of a sense of obligation to a jovial protective mother is moving and a testament to Kathy Bates’ acting ability. The evolution is most impressive in retrospect as you try and recall the moments that led to the change. She has this massive arc done in such small increments it’s like there was no movement at all, but you find her in this completely different place, and it feels right. It would feel whiplash-inducing in a lesser film to have such a dramatic shift that wasn’t accompanied by growing pains.

While McLaughlin and Franciosi give good performances and have believable chemistry, their romance is the most far-fetched aspect of the movie. Them falling for each other is not out of the realm of possibilities; it just comes too quickly. Delta doesn’t have enough screen time alone or with Marvin to show that she has processed these very complex emotions. She seems like a woman who has had a hard life filled with hard decisions, and she doesn’t want to question something that makes her feel good. Escapism is a concept everyone understands. Still, the relationship isn’t without its struggles like the one with Delta’s brother Russel (James Jordan). He hates Marvin and can never forgive him for what he has done, which is an understandable position. He fights with Delta about her having a conversation with Marvin, let alone romantic feelings. If the pair had more time together or their scenes where Potente focused all the energy and fun, it would feel like something worth fighting for. With the film’s slow pace, it feels like two lost souls settling for each other instead of coming together because of something bigger.

“Home” is a masterclass in acting, but its lack of memorable moments will make it largely forgettable as time passes. Suppose Potente can up the intensity and keep the same quality. In that case, she could be an exceptional director moving forward, but her first outing only scores a 3.25 out of 5.

Genre: Drama
Original Language: English
Director: Franka Potente
Producer: Urte Amelie Fink, Jonas Katzenstein, Maximilian Leo, David Grumbach
Writer: Franka Potente
Release Date: December 3rd, 2021
Runtime: 1h 40m
Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.