Depicting a young girl’s struggle to accept the reality of a reconfigured family after losing her father, “Carry Me Home” traces a familiar dramatic arc but nonetheless is touching and absorbing. Set in a post-WWII rural farm community in upstate New York, seasoned television director Jace Alexander’s debut was made for Showtime’s independent feature unit and seems too soft-edged and conventional to break beyond cable. But its emotional story, vulnerable characters and compassionate family values should make mainstream TV audiences responsive.
Tomboyish preteen Carrie (Ashley Rose Orr) clashes with her bereaved mother Harriet (Penelope Ann Miller), exacerbating the heartbroken woman’s loneliness and her anxiety over having suddenly to manage her family and apple farm alone. When Harriet starts receiving courtship overtures from Bernard (David Alan Basche), a well-heeled local recently returned from the city, Carrie sees it as a betrayal of her dead soldier father and cranks up her hostility another notch.
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Forced by her mother to wear dresses and finding herself the uncomfortable object of romantic attention from an older boy (Nicholas Braun), Carrie becomes sullen and rebellious. Her only release comes from taunting Charlie (Kevin Anderson), the mentally challenged hand on a neighboring farm. But a dramatic episode that results in near-tragedy for Charlie helps place Carrie on the road to maturity and acceptance, also bringing her closer to her mother.
While Orr pumps plenty of plucky spirit and wounded anger into the role, she overplays the character’s bratty insolence, making her less than sympathetic for much of the action. Anderson’s fragile, pathetic character feels like a stock figure but the actor gives a moving performance. The drama’s real pathos comes mainly from Miller’s sorrowful, understated work, which elevates it slightly above the rather pedestrian screenplay.
The director’s mother Jane Alexander appears briefly as the haughty, controlling aunt of Harriet’s suitor.
Handsomely shot in warm tones, the well-paced film makes good use in suspenseful stretches of Bill Elliott’s lush, country-flavored fiddle score.