A Home at the End of the World

© 2004 Ray Wong

Based on his 1991 novel of the same name and adapted by Pulitzer-winning author Cunningham (THE HOURS) himself, HOME is a bitter-sweet, slice-of-life story of an unconventional family driven by love and tolerance.

It’s easy to love Bobby Morrow, a man-child with a sweet and innocent disposition. As a boy, Bobby learns some interesting lessons about love from his brother, before witnessing his brutal death.

As a teenager, Bobby becomes fast and best friend with Jonathan Glover. They share with each other not only their joints, but also their sexual awakening. After Bobby’s father passes away, the Glover family takes Bobby in. He clings to Jonathan’s family as his own and they adore him in return.

Several years later, Bobby moves in with Jonathan and his roommate Clare in New York and they form a tight trio. Jonathan is gay but Clare is straight (and hopelessly in love with Jonathan), and they both love Bobby. When Clare and Bobby hit it off, Jonathan becomes jealous and moves back in with his parents in Arizona. After Jonathan’s father dies, Bobby and Clare visit him, and Clare lets on that she’s pregnant (assumingly with Bobby’s child, although it’s never made clear). The trio decides to relocate to Woodstock to raise the baby. The story continues to follow these three people who love each other so much and how the decisions they make in life change them all.

As Bobby, Farrell (PHONE BOOTH) sheds his bad-boy, tough-guy routines and consumes the role with a wide-eyed innocence and sweetness that surprise and delight us. His Bobby is all about love, and it doesn’t matter who he loves. Whether it is Jonathan or Clare. Or just life itself. But the world is not a simple place, and soon Bobby must choose. Farrell has succeeded in bringing Bobby to life – it’s probably his best work to date. It helps that the actors who play his younger self (Andrew Chalmers as the boy and Erik Smith as the teenager) both give excellent performances.

Wright Penn (UNBREAKABLE) is exquisite as Clare, the woman who loves both men but knows that she can’t have either of them completely. Her characterization is electrifying and achingly touching at the same time. Roberts (THE LUCKY ONES) has a harder time playing the confused, moody and introverted Jonathan. Naturally he is outshone by the stronger personalities of both Bobby and Clare. However, in a quiet, satisfying way, his Jonathan is the one who grows the most in the story.

Spacek (IN THE BEDROOM) is a national treasure, I now declare. She is simply incredible as Alice, Jonathan’s mother. Her character – and her portrayal – is so beautiful and affecting that everyone should want to have a mother like her. Frewer (DAWN OF THE DEAD) is fine as Ned, Jonathan’s father, but his role is too minor to have any impact.

The screenplay by Cunningham is languid and episodic. I figure it is very difficult to adapt a lengthy, literary fiction to the screen, especially one that is dear to your heart. Cunningham has done a good job, even though sometimes the script feels a little melodramatic or “TV movie of the week.” First-time director Mayer (mostly known for his stage work) may not very savvy, but he has a keen eyes for bringing out performances. The film excels in bringing to life the characters and their intricate, complex relationships. At times, it’s difficult to understand between the lines, but you get the feeling that these characters are real and you feel their emotions coming through with such power. A scene near the end, when Bobby and Jonathan scatter Ned’s ashes near their house, brings a rare tear in my eye. It’s because I really care about these characters, even though sometimes I don’t understand them completely. Just as in real life. In many ways, it’s an unconventional story about an unconventional family with an unconventional ending. And that is what makes this film unforgettable.

Stars: Collin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Dallas Roberts, Sissy Spacek, Matt Frewer
Director: Michael Mayer
Writers: Michael Cunningham (based on his novel)
Distributor: Warner Independent Pictures
MPAA Rating: R for nudity, sexual content, drug use, language


Script – 8
Performance – 9
Direction – 8
Cinematography – 7
Music/Sound– 7
Editing – 6
Production – 7

Total – 7.4 out of 10

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