Aside from Jodie Foster's underrated Home for the Holidays, Tony Bill's A Home of Our Own (1993) has a firm lock on "most generically-titled family movie not made by Hallmark". Thankfully, it's better than its sappy name and eyebrow-raising premise implies. Supposedly based on a true coming-of-age story (all signs point to writer Patrick Sheane Duncan, but I was unable to find any real confirmation of this), A Home of Our Own follows the seven-member Lacey family during a particularly rough stretch in the early 1960s. After matriarch Frances (Kathy Bates) loses her job for speaking out against sexual harassment, she leaves Los Angeles for...well, anywhere with cheaper land. She and all six children settle in fictional Hankston, Idaho once her run-down Plymouth finally breathes its last.
Frances and most of "the Lacey tribe" have a staunch do-it-yourself mentality that doubles as their greatest advantage and occasional handicap. After haggling with property owner Mr. Munimura (Soon-Tek Oh), she's the proud owner of a run-down shack and a few acres, earning money by cleaning "Mr. Moon"'s store with the kids and waitressing in town. Most of the family falls in line with mom's wishes, aside for rambunctious Murray (Miles Feulner) and eldest son Shayne (Edward Furlong), who's well into his teenage years and growing tired of babysitting and thrift-store clothes. As A Home of Our Own unfolds, we learn bits and pieces of Lacey family history and the supporting characters get fleshed out as well: her husband's passing several years ago, the reason for Mr. Moon's solitary life, and the pleasures and pains of living in such close quarters. As their first winter in Idaho sets in, the Laceys attempt to adjust to all the changes while making slow but steady progress on a house that eventually gets indoor plumbing.
A Home of Our Own is the rare family film that's probably too rough around the edges for anyone in their single-digits: rough stuff lies ahead, from nasty arguments and adult themes to language that defies its modest PG rating. Yet it's all wrapped in a thoughtful and sincere bow that mirrors Frances' commitment to raising her kids while accepting no handouts, and largely avoids the religious route by reminding us that hard work and determination are much shorter paths to genuine progress. Sure, it's almost overflowing with excess drama at times, the voice-over narration (from Shayne's perspective as an older man, and apparently delivered by the director himself) isn't really needed, and it borrows a bit too much from earlier classics like It's a Wonderful Life, yet A Home of Our Own has enough good will and teeth in its arsenal to rise above what usually passes for mainstream family entertainment.
The film's last appearance on disc was MGM's out-of-print 2001 DVD which, like a growing chunk of their back catalog, is gradually earning a second life on Blu-ray courtesy of Kino. Though a complete lack of bonus features doesn't make this a particularly good value on paper, the rock-solid A/V presentation and fact that MGM's DVD still sells for $25-30 via third-party sellers makes it an attractive option for established fans and newcomers alike.
I don't own MGM's out-of-print 2001 DVD and thus can't speak on its quality, but 15 years and a bump to 1080p will obviously yield plenty of improvements. Unless that original disc was ahead of its time, Kino's presentation of A Home of Our Own looks to have been taken from a recent and well-treated master; this 1.85:1 transfer follows suit with a very clean and stable image that's largely free of digital imperfections such as interlacing, compression artifacts, and excessive noise reduction. Image detail and textures are pleasing (especially during outdoor scenes), the subdued color palette holds up nicely, light grain is present, and black levels are consistent from start to finish. There's not a tremendous amount of depth or stunning imagery here, but that's almost entirely by design. Die-hard fans will be pleased, especially those ready to retire their DVDs...which are almost old enough to drive by now.
NOTE: The promotional images featured on this page are strictly decorative and do not represent the title under review.
Likewise, the DTS-HD 2.0 Master Audio track makes the most of its basic source material, but probably could've been bumped to a passable surround track with little effort. Either way, A Home of Our Own sounds good with crisp dialogue and well-balanced effects and music, not to mention decent separation especially during the many outdoor sequences. Low end is limited but occasionally noticeable. Thankfully, optional English subtitles have been included during the main feature; this isn't a given on Kino's Blu-ray releases, but they're welcome under any circumstances.
The interface includes separate options for playback and chapter selection (there are 8), with relatively quick loading time and minimal pre-menu distractions. This one-disc package arrives in a standard keepcase and includes poster-themed artwork and a promotional insert. Sadly, no bonus features are included here...not even a trailer.
Despite its bland title and potentially Hallmark-grade premise, actor-turned-director Tony Bill's A Home of Our Own is elevated by its solid cast, heartfelt performances, loads of drama, and a tendency to subvert much of the cheap, unearned sentimentality that plagues the wide majority of mainstream family films. It's the kind of production that's easy to get behind, sticks around in your memory for awhile, and has a good amount of long-term replay value to boot. The lack of hard evidence for its "true story" claims is a bit off-putting, yet A Home of Our Own remains strong enough on its own merits to not require the added handicap. Kino's welcome Blu-ray edition easily beats MGM's out-of-print 2001 DVD, offering a fine A/V presentation but nothing in the way of bonus features. Firmly Recommended for established fans of the film and/or cast, but newcomers might be just as happy with a rental.
Randy Miller III is an affable office monkey by day and film reviewer by night. He also does freelance design work, teaches art classes and runs a website or two. In his limited free time, Randy also enjoys slacking off, juggling HD DVDs, and writing in third person.