Released on DVD this week, Home centers on Jack Hall (The Wire’s Gbenga Akinnagbe), an individual who’s determined to move out of a group home and find an apartment of his own. Jack is suffering from a mental illness which holds dominion over his life, resulting in a fractured relationship with his son (Judah Bellamy) and former companion (House of Cards’ Tawny Cypress).
Director Jono Oliver, a television veteran who’s spent years as an assistant director, has placed his heart and soul into Home. This low budget, labor of love project aims to shed light on mental heath issues, but thankfully the project is much more than a teaching lesson. From a purely dramatic standpoint, Home‘s narrative is anchored by the first rate work of the entire ensemble. Whether it’s Jack’s neglectful and alcoholic father (Joe Morton, who’s always excellent) or the caring supervisor of the group home (K.K. Moggie doing subtle, understated work), the acting is entirely spot-on and effectively heartrending.
Jack’s story is at the center of Home’s universe, but it’s the people who inhabit his world that give color and life to his domicile. Isiah Whitlock Jr., who plays one of the home’s residents, delivers a painful monologue directed at Mr. Hall, questioning our protagonist if his efforts are all for naught. Many of the players get their respective chance to shine within the story, and although Oliver gives his Brooklyn based drama a documentary feel, much of Home also has the makings of a well staged play.
Such influences infuse the story with a refreshingly spontaneous tone. We really don’t have an idea if Jack’s journey will end on a good note, and its unpredictability should keep viewers intrigued.
Credit goes to Oliver for not crafting a diatribe or polemic on our mental health system. Instead, by showing us Jack Hall’s gradual progress in the face of tragedy, Oliver delivers a clear eyed account of a man’s unwavering dream of rebuilding his family. The movie wouldn’t work if Akinnagbe didn’t fully capture the intricate shadings of Jack’s persona, but thankfully the actor effectively (and, at times, poetically) delivers the goods.
Home exists as a father and son story, but on a broader level it reminds us to follow the golden rule. We are all, as Bob Dylan once sang, seeking “shelter from the storm,” and for Jack Hall, his journey has just begun.
Special features on the DVD include deleted scenes, audio commentary from Oliver, a photo gallery, and a personal message from Oliver. If you end up loving the film as much as I did, check out the deleted scene with Morton and Akinnagbe. The sequence gives added depth into Jack’s complicated relationship to his dad.
Home (Not Rated, 112 minutes), which also stars James McDaniel (NYPD Blue) and Danny Hoch, is now out on DVD.