Sudz (nee David) Sutherland’s first bigscreen feature since his well-received debut “Love, Sex and Eating the Bones” a decade ago, “Home Again” deals with the plight of longtime expats forcibly repatriated to Jamaica. But the pic is less a sober social-justice plea than a lively melodrama that seldom pauses to catch its breath as it throws its protags into criminal and bodily peril. Entertainment One plans a Canadian theatrical release; elsewhere, this entertaining pic should prove a hardy sales prospect for home formats.
Though opening and closing text refers to recent Canadian laws allowing easier deportation of foreign-born citizens convicted of crime (similar to laws passed in other nations), only one of the protagonists in Sutherland and producer Jennifer Holness’ screenplay is a Canuck. All, however, left Jamaica as toddlers, making this imposed return less a homecoming than a disorienting drop-kick into an unfamiliar society.
Upstanding young Toronto widow Marva (Tatyana Ali), who’d been tricked by a boyfriend into transporting contraband, has been shipped out without her two small children (a separation that allows the thesp perhaps too many crying scenes). They’ll be allowed to follow if she can prove she’s built a stable new life here. But boarding with relatives who treat her like a servant, she has trouble finding legitimate employment as a presumably shady deportee. An even bigger immediate problem is the grabby hands of leering Uncle Archie (Paul Campbell).
Posh London schoolboy Everton (Stephan James) has been exiled for juvenile hijinks that should have received a mere slap on the wrist. Instead, he’s been set adrift in the Kingstown slums. Searching for his own uncle to stay with, he’s quickly relieved of his luggage by thugs, finding shelter only thanks to the amorous interest of sexually precocious teen Angie (Pauline Mark). When that idyll abruptly ends, he finds himself homeless and prey to all the dangers of street life.
Dunston (Lyriq Bent) is no innocent, having been deported for strongarm doings in New York. Bent on keeping his nose clean in hopes of a Stateside return, he’s pushed into the service of Jim aka “The Don” (Kadeem Wilson), a local kingpin who fancies himself his hood’s benevolent patriarch, but who wreaks vicious “justice” on anyone who incurs his wrath. Dunston’s queasy situation is eased somewhat by his attraction to Rastafarianism and, on a less spiritual plane, to the feisty Cherry (Fefe Dobson). But those comforts don’t help much when full-on gang warfare erupts, in which the three strands are tied up adequately if a little too neatly.
Sutherland maintains nimble control of a narrative that could easily have gone over the top, injecting little moments of humor and calm to keep the pileup of incidents from seeming too hectic. Cast is highlighted by Bent, a survivor of several “Saw” installments, who brings convincing toughness as well as an easygoing charm to what becomes the greater of three fairly equal lead roles.
Lensing, editing and design elements are all polished and energetic; soundtrack percolates with appealing dance music, mostly reggae. Pic was primarily shot on Trinidad, as too many real Dons in Kingston made shooting there inadvisable.