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HOME starring Kathy Bates & Jake McLaughlin: Film Review

Home Ā» Reviews Ā» HOME starring Kathy Bates & Jake McLaughlin: Film Review

Imagine, in your youth, doing something so terrible that you can never make it right. Even to try to explain your conduct sounds like a feeble attempt at rationalisation. All that is left to you is to hold your peace and serve your time.

Marvin has been away for 17 years, serving his sentence, after being rightfully convicted, in his early 20s, of the brutal murder of an old woman. He returns without fanfare, skateboarding the final stretch into town along straight, empty featureless roads.

HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution
HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution

Stopping off at a roadside cafe, he shares a cigarette out back with a waitress. Good-looking, well-toned and decorated in artfully designed tattoos (which we assume pre-date his stay in prison), itā€™s no great surprise when the dowdy, bored waitress offers sex. Marvin politely yet firmly declines. Heā€™s going home.

Itā€™s a less than happy homecoming. In his absence, his brother has killed himself and he soon learns that his mother, Bernadette (played with steely restraint by Kathy Bates), is terminally ill. The approach of death is not (at least at first) enough to thaw Bernadetteā€™s hostility towards her miscreant child. Others too, in this midwestern town, are unwilling to forgive and forget. The dead womanā€™s blustering, violent grandson, Russell (played with impressively pompous vim by James Jordan), is determined to drive Marvin out of town.

HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution
HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution

Whilst the priest, Father Browning (Stephen Root) seems genuinely glad heā€™s back, Marvinā€™s only genuine supporters are his drug-addled best friend, Wade (Derek Richardson, slurring and gurning with considerable charm) and Bernadetteā€™s resolutely compassionate nurse, Jayden (Lil Rey Howery leaning one degree back from a halo in this role).

Though her loudmouth brother rages against the convictā€™s return, single mother, Delta (Aisling Franciosi) – having been too young at the time of the killing to grasp the full horror of her grandmotherā€™s death – finds herself increasingly conflicted. When Marvin is subjected to a brutal and humiliating assault (which he barely resists) a bond begins to form between the two. The script does not quite earn this relationship, but thereā€™s enough chemistry between the two to sell it to a willing audience.

As Bernadette wheezes and stumbles towards the grave, will Marvinā€™s contrition win redemption and love, or is there yet more of a penalty for him to pay?.

HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution
HOME from Lightbulb Film Distribution

The performances are universally strong. Franciosiā€™s Delta is resilient but floundering before Marvin appears, while McLaughlinā€™s Marvin fits impressively into the damaged yet decent, strong and not-quite-silent model Clint Eastwood used to own.

Franka Potente (writer and director) shows a gift for creating multi-dimensional characters (as an example, Russellā€™s violent posturing is neatly offset by a tender affection for his sisterā€™s toddler).

ā€œHomeā€ feels like Potente flexing her off-screen creative muscles (cinema goers will know her as an actor – most famously opposite Matt Damon in ā€œThe Bourne Identityā€). The story proceeds with a measured but purposeful gait, well fitted to its environment. It has that ā€˜things will take as long as they need to takeā€™ attitude, so characteristic of inland America. Once or twice – as in the climactic scene in church – this results in it being underwritten and under-directed, but even this is in welcome contrast to the hyper-dramatic emotional foghorning of many US films. Here we have a US setting and US cast, but a production team that is largely German. Itā€™s an interesting blend. Iā€™d be glad to see more.


Home is available on digital download from Amazon, AppleTV, Sky Store, Virgin Media and Google Play.

Written by
Martin Thomasson

A winner (with Les Smith) of the Manchester Evening News award for Best New Play, Martin taught script-writing at the universities of Bolton and Salford, before becoming an adjudicator and mentor for the 24:7 theatre festival. Over the years, in addition to drama, Martin has seen more ballet and contemporary dance than is wise for a man with two left feet, and much more opera than any other holder of a Grade 3 certificate in singing.

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Martin Written by Martin Thomasson