SFFILM FILM FESTIVAL 2021 REVIEW! When one has served their full prison sentence, doesn’t that imply they’ve completely paid their debt to society? In Franka Potente’s feature debut, Home, a newly released convict returns home to care for his mother and finds he still has debts to pay.
The film opens on the solitary Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) riding his skateboard down an empty highway somewhere in the middle of rural California. His first stop is a local convenience store, and his request for a fresh pot of coffee quickly escalates into an awkward confrontation. The entire town knows that Jake has returned.
Throughout the first act, it’s slowly revealed Jake was sent to prison for murder. No one in town is happy he’s back, including his ailing mother (Kathy Bates). The family whose mother he murdered wants him dead, particularly Delta (Aisling Franciosi) and Russell (James Jordan). Strike that as there are two people who are happy to see him back in town: Marvin’s best friend Wade (Derek Richardson) and Father Browning (Stephen Root).
Delta and Russell’s anger and distress over the return of the man who killed their mother makes sense, though their actions don’t paint them as angels. They throw rocks in Bernadette’s windows, poison the town against her and Marvin, and lead a protest at the church.
“…a newly released convict returns home to care for his mother…”
Writer/director Potente employs a slow, methodical approach to telling the narrative and works to build the proper sympathy and empathy for Marvin as well as the lives he changed. Quickly, Home becomes a story of redemption for Marvin, who knows he has to atone for his sins.
Kathy Bates is brilliant as Marvin’s mother, Bernadette. Bates, like any great actor, does nothing but elevate the performances of those around her. She truly stands out and embraces the role of supporting actor, playing the heartbroken and bitter mother whose other sons died as she lives out the title of murderer’s mother.
Every time I see Stephen Root appear in anything, my admiration and fandom grow exponentially. I first became a fan of his on Newsradio, and as of late Barry, Uncle Frank, Happily, and now Home. I can’t help but marvel at the breadth and diversity in his performances across the board. He appears in only a few scenes, but his take on Father Browning is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, and his speech at the end made the entire movie for me.
If you can’t tell, I love Home. It’s not easy to tell stories like this without making them overly melodramatic or saccharine. Potente’s choice to slow burn the plot works beautifully, and McLaughlin shines, making Marvin more sympathetic over the course of the film. In the end, it’s a feel-good movie in a time when stories of redemption and forgiveness are needed now more than ever.
Home screened at the 2021 SFFILM Film Festival.
"…the plot works beautifully, and McLaughlin shines..."