You know you might be in trouble when a film's open credits "poems by." To be sure, the domestic melodrama of Home is weighted down by some heavy-handed hanky bait -- breast cancer, alcoholism, drug abuse, impotence and the copious tears of an adorable little girl - but it is saved by devastating performances by the mother-daughter combo of Marcia Gay Harden and Eulala Scheel.
Set in 1969 in a predominantly Amish area of Pennsylvania, this modest indie concerns the challenging relationship between Inga (Harden) and her young daughter, Indigo (Scheel). A breast cancer survivor with the psychological and physical scars of the ordeal, Inga finds an outlet in writing poetry. She desperately needs the outlet. Inga is neglected by her workaholic husband, Herman (Michael Gaston). The couple spend their nights boozing and fighting viciously. For Inga, the circumstances are reminiscent of when she was a child watching her own late mother (Candy Buckley) waste away from cancer and morphine addiction. For young Indigo, the situation is a nightmare.
Days are decidedly more upbeat. When Inga is sober, she and Indigo have a close-knit, nurturing relationship. They fly kites and gaze up at clouds, but Inga's most dogged activity is dragging her daughter to visit a nearby old house that reminds the mother of her childhood home.
Home might be where the heart is, but this Home is more about housing heartache. The movie suffers from a bit of overripe melodrama -- and Michele Mercure's Lifetime-friendly music score does it no favors -- but writer-director-editor Mary Haverstick is fearless about examining her characters, figurative warts and all.
It can be emotionally harrowing, particularly when it comes to Inga's ugly drunken tirade against her 8-year-old daughter. But you never get the impression that the film is ever dishonest or straining for its dramatic punch. It feels, pardon the murky word, truthful. Home's autobiographical nature is evident -- and not simply because the poems it uses were written by the filmmaker's late mother, Mary Stuart Haverstick.
Harden is an amazing actress, and her performance here -- loving, brutal and unyieldingly ambivalent - is typically superb. But the greater discovery is that her 10-year-old daughter, Scheel, apparently inherited mom's thespian skills. Together, they exude the chemistry you would expect from a real-life mother and daughter.
The review screener, a check disc, does not reflect what will appear on the DVD. Video, audio and any supplemental material (if, indeed, there is any) cannot be fairly judged. The picture and sound quality were fine, but that doesn't necessarily have any bearing on what will be on the DVD. If and when final product is provided to DVD Talk, this review will be revised accordingly.
See above the "see above."
Cancer, drug addiction, alcoholism, impotence and shrill domestic strive all bubble up to the surface in Home. While not immune to some trappings of turgid melodrama, it boasts superb acting and unusual depth that put it several notches above many works of its ilk.