×

Film Review: ‘Home’

There's no light on the teenage wasteland in Belgian helmer Fien Troch's tough-minded, suitably rough-edged fourth feature.

With:
Sebastian Van Dun, Mistral Guidotti, Loïc Batog, Lena Suijkerbuijk, Karlijn Sileghem, Els Deceukelier, Robby Cleiren, Yavuz Saçikara, Els Dottermans, Katelijne Verbeke, Jan Hammenecker, Kevin Janssens, Jeroen Perceval. (Dutch dialogue)

Official Site: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt4047846/

If there appears to have been a recent surge in enthusiasm among younger filmmakers for the clipped, boxy proportions of the Academy ratio, there’s a notable divide in the aesthetic it is used to evoke. Where some filmmakers employ it to replicate the classical confines of golden-age cinema, others are looking to the present, shaving their frames to mirror the favored medium of Generation Instagram. Flemish director Fien Troch’s “Home” falls very much into the latter category. Often narrowing its image even further in jagged segues to iPhone video, this suitably rough-edged, raw-nerved kids-are-not-all-right drama fixates on technology as one of many communication barriers between contemporary adolescents and their parents. That’s hardly the hottest of takes, but it’s one that — like many of the film’s sensitive observations on the personal fears and social frustrations of its young subjects — rings bleakly true, even through the drastically amped-up drama of its final act.

It seems a cruel irony that, beyond a handful of Euro territories, the downbeat, vérité-style authenticity of Troch’s fourth feature is likely to limit it to the festival circuit, out of reach from the teenage audience that might connect with it most powerfully. Happily, its deliberately shabby, on-the-fly shooting style — a stark departure from the helmer’s previous, more refined collaborations with regular cinematographer Frank van den Eden, including 2008’s Emmanuelle Devos starrer “Unspoken” — makes “Home” a natural fit for VOD platforms, where it could readily be accessed on the smaller devices to which the filmmaking so frequently nods.

Troch’s script, co-written with her editor (and husband) Nico Leunen, takes its time in picking out a dominant strand from a introductory swirl of fractious confrontations between inter-connected teenagers and exasperated authority figures. Mouthy, recalcitrant Lina (Lena Suijkerbuijk) is coerced by her school principal into the emptiest of apologies for verbally abusing a teacher, while shy, sullen John (Mistral Guidotti) has an altercation with his domineering mother (a chilling Els Deceukelier) that barely hints at the truth of their profoundly dysfunctional relationship.

Popular on Variety

But it’s aloof, imposing 17-year-old Kevin (Sebastian Van Dun) who emerges as the pic’s thoroughly anti-heroic protagonist. Banned by his parents from the family home after a spell in juvenile hall for an unspecified offense, he is instead taken in by his kindly but no-nonsense aunt Sonja (Karlijn Sileghem), who attempts to put him on the straight-and-narrow road to employability. While he tentatively befriends with his more scholarly cousin Sammy (Loïc Batog), it’s Sammy’s aforementioned friend John with whom he forms a closer, not entirely constructive bond. Troch perceptively identifies the fine line between benevolent unity and unintended bad influence in peer social networks — both human and online — as the narrative pushes these kids into deeper waters of risk and wrongdoing.

If the storytelling is a bit over-egged, however, “Home” avoids didactic cautionary-tale territory: Its most appalling developments (and the film does indeed take the worst case scenario where it presents itself) represent an equal collaboration between youthful and parental irresponsibility. Troch also takes a pleasingly amoral stand on her young subjects’ drug-taking and casually explicit expressions of sexuality, filming their behavior candidly but without any leading direction or implication on the camera’s part — just as kids’ own smartphone recordings and YouTube videos can preserve their present-day lives without editorial interference. Indeed, beyond the obvious cropping of the image, van den Eden’s juddering lensing very nearly lines up with the film’s occasional interpolations of vertically-shot phone video into the mise-en-scène; the mutual visual limits of the Academy ratio and the iPhone lens, meanwhile, both contribute to a mounting sense of claustrophobia in the characters’ lives.

Troch has coaxed fine, wholly unaffected work from her spiky, largely untested young ensemble, many of them first-timers, with Guidotti particularly heart-rending as the tormented, critically unsupported John. It’s no young actor’s fault, however, that the least shakeable performance here comes from Deceukelier, previously seen in Troch’s 2005 debut “Someone Else’s Happiness.” Playing perhaps the worst screen mom since Mo’Nique in “Precious,” she oscillates horrifyingly between hateful violation and vulnerable delusion — the least developed soul in this collection of inchoate bodies.

Film Review: 'Home'

Reviewed at Venice Film Festival (Horizons), Sept. 4, 2016. (Also in Toronto Film Festival — Platform.) Running time: 107 MIN.

Production: (Belgium) A Prime Time production in co-production with Versus Production. (International sales: Doc & Film International, Paris.) Produced by Antonino Lombardo. Co-producers, Jacques-Henri Bronckart, Olivier Bronckart.

Crew: Directed by Fien Troch. Screenplay, Troch, Nico Leunen. Camera (color, HD), Frank van den Eden; editor, Leunen.

With: Sebastian Van Dun, Mistral Guidotti, Loïc Batog, Lena Suijkerbuijk, Karlijn Sileghem, Els Deceukelier, Robby Cleiren, Yavuz Saçikara, Els Dottermans, Katelijne Verbeke, Jan Hammenecker, Kevin Janssens, Jeroen Perceval. (Dutch dialogue)

More Film

  • Gabriel Harel on MyFFF ‘The Night

    Gabriel Harel Discusses Dystopic Parable ‘The Night of the Plastic Bags’

    With his first short film, the animated “Yùl and the Snake,” Gabriel Harel won Europe’s Cartoon d’Or for the continent’s best animated short film, given at the 2016 Cartoon Forum in Toulouse. Now, Harel’s awaited sophomore effort, the animated “The Night of the Plastic Bags,” competes at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival, and is available on a swathe [...]

  • MyFrenchFilmFestival: Profiling Benjamin Crotty’s Short ‘Nicolas

    ‘The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin’: Nationalism Wrapped in Charisma

    Winner of Locarno’s Signs of Life section, Benjamin Crotty’s “The Glorious Acceptance of Nicolas Chauvin” has enjoyed more than 12 months of festival success and critical acclaim as it reaches the end of its festival run at UniFrance’s MyFrenchFilmFestival. A modern take on one of France’s most influential yet widely unknown characters, the film headlines [...]

  • Alexander Ludwig

    Alexander Ludwig on Sharing his Recovery Journey, Playing the 'Bad Boys' Tech Guy

    With his towering height and stature, Alexander Ludwig looks every bit the action star, first appearing as Cato in “The Hunger Games,” and more recently as fierce Norse Viking chief Bjorn Ironside on History Channel’s “Vikings” and in “Bad Boys for Life,” the third installment of the “Bad Boys” franchise, with Will Smith and Martin [...]

  • Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star

    Box Office: 'Bad Boys for Life' Scores Big With $66 Million Launch

    “Bad Boys for Life” is showing plenty of power at the North American box office with an impressive  launch of around $66 million at 3,740 venues over the four-day holiday weekend. Sony’s sequel to 1995’s “Bad Boys” and 2003’s “Bad Boys II” far exceeded the studio’s pre-release forecasts of a $38 million weekend. The film, [...]

  • A Bump Along the Way Movie

    'A Bump Along the Way': Film Review

    While “Derry Girls” continues to be the last word in young, raucous female rebellion on the Emerald Isle, “A Bump Along the Way” has a little something to add. Sin the same Northern Irish city as the hit Netflix sitcom, but shedding the ’90s nostalgia for the Snapchat age, Shelly Love’s appealing, unassuming debut feature [...]

  • Tresor Plots $72 Million 'Asterix &

    Tresor Films Plots $72 Million 'Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road,' New Projects (EXCLUSIVE)

    After delivering two of the highest-grossing French films of last year, Alain Attal’s Paris-based production company Tresor Films (“Sink or Swim,” “Little White Lies 2”) is kicking off 2020 with its most ambitious project yet, Guillaume Canet’s “Asterix & Obelix: The Silk Road.” Co-produced and financed by Jerome Seydoux’s Pathé, “Asterix & Obelix” is budgeted [...]

  • Anais Bertrand on Producing Sundance Player

    Anais Bertrand on the Obstacles She Faced to Produce Sundance Player ‘Jumbo’

    Zoé Wittock’s debut feature, “Jumbo,” screening in Sundance’s World Cinema Dramatic Competition, is also the first feature film produced by up-and-coming French producer Anais Bertrand, of Insolence Productions, who has cut her teeth on award-winning shorts, including winning the Procirep Short Film Producer Award last year. “Jumbo” is about a young woman, played by Noémie [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content