A Sort of Homecoming
Although the film has some sound fidelity issues, on the whole it is a great coming of age story and a definite much watch indie film.
Hello everyone Kevin here with the first of many reviews for Film Fervor. As everyone knows from the Podcast we are a huge supporter of the Independent film community and we look forward to many such opportunities to share our opinions of the films we speak about on the show. Today I will going over the Independent film, A Sort of Homecoming from Director Maria Burton and written by Lynn Reed.
The story follows Amy Hartington (played by Actress Michelle Clunie, Adult and Laura Marano, Young) a successful freelance News Reporter working in New York City as she is unexpectedly called back to her childhood home in rural Louisiana to tend to her old Debate coach in her final days of life. Amy is surprised to learn that Annie (played by Actress Kathleen Wilhoite) has granted her power of attorney despite the fact they had not spoken in decades ever since the summer of Amy’s high school Debate camp and the falling out that occurred. This isn’t really explained in the film as the character’s relationship takes a rather severe shift toward animosity that is never resolved.
Through a series of flashbacks we are taken to the carefree and highly independent Amy’s childhood as she watches over her former teacher’s final nights. Young Amy and her debate partner Nick (played by Parker Mack) are invited by Annie to go to the try outs for the chance to become the National Debate champions. Nick is being pushed as the next big thing to come out of a small town and has a chance to go on national TV if he does well and Amy is there to help him along. Over the course of the movie we learn that Nick’s father resents this fact and that he is very abusive toward his son and it is also around this time we learn that Amy is adopted. The Adoption story line doesn’t really serve much of a purpose to the story besides stating that Amy felt she shouldn’t be in her small town as it isn’t fully explored and left by the wayside.
There is a love story in the midst of the coming of age lessons of Amy during this time between our Protagonist and Nick. I felt that it was a bit forced as Amy and Nick didn’t really show much in the way of chemistry together and it came off more awkward than romantic in nearly all instances. Laura Marano’s acting however during these scenes was believable and she attempted to make the awkwardness seem part of the teenage life instead of just lack of chemistry between to two principle actors. While we are on the subject of acting it is worth noting that while the cast is made up of minor B list celebrities it is the secondary characters and extras that really make the movie believable. There are many instances when minor characters that don’t even have names carry a scene in such a way that it immerses you into the story, one such example for me is during the first day of school and the Debate club president gives his speech. It to me comes off as very believable and really sets the tone for the upcoming adventure and that is just one of many instances like that in the movie.
One thing I find odd about the movie is the fact the focus shifts from Amy and focuses more on Nick’s struggles. As this is happening in a flashback it makes little sense that Amy feels like a secondary character in the story compared to Parker Mack’s character. I was left with the feeling that Nick’s story was much more thought out and central to the plot instead of Amy’s coming of age and many times I wished it would just focus more on him as Amy’s parts just cluttered up the narrative. I wont tell you what happens to Nick as it would be a major spoiler and I truly think you should watch this film, however I was left without a sense of closure from the story that I found disappointing. Another thing I found odd is throughout the story I expected to be told why Annie would give Amy power of attorney and ask her to take care of her while she was dying and to me it was never resolved or explained.
The ending of the film is also slightly confusing to me as reliving her past with her old childhood mentor (who doesn’t actually speak to her the entire time) seemingly changes Amy’s personality completely at the end. She changes the key aspects of her life in a dramatic way despite none of her childhood issues actually being resolved and the last lines of the movie are a quote from a person she butted heads with throughout the film and disagreed with strongly but suddenly she felt he had the right ideas in life? That was truly the only part of the film that left me flabbergasted and almost ruined it for me completely but maybe you will find it different and fitting.
Where the film really shines is in it’s camera work. Many independent movies have trouble with shaky cams that only serve to rip you from the experience A Sort of Homecoming suffers from none of these issues. Director of Cinematography Arlene Nelson’s choices of background shots and sweeping camera angles truly helps you feel as if you are in New Orleans and does as wonderful job of capturing the gritty and glamorous world of the bayou. No matter where the scene is shot, from the school house dorms to the bustling life of Bourbon Street, the camera work truly becomes the star of the show for me as it is one of the most important features of any film to make it successful, the other of course being Sound.
The sound quality of the film unfortunately doesn’t quite equal the wonderful cinematography we had just talked about. Throughout most of the film the voices of the actors sound as if they are speaking into a tin can and the reverberations, echoes and sense of the voices coming from off screen jars you out of the experience. While in some places during the film this issue is addressed it quietly comes back in another scene and gives you a mixed feeling on the sound quality. If you can get past that though the dialog is well written and delivered by the actors in such a way that makes you forgive this error that should have been taken care of in Post Production.
Another place the film shines is in the wardrobe department. The choice of rustic outfits for the regular students and parents truly gives you the feel of 1980’s Louisiana while the mode of clothing for Amy’s friend from the big city clearly shows the youthful fashions of the New York City demographic. All of it combined together to lend itself the credibility of the time frame it was set in.
After all is said and done I believe that A Sort of Homecoming is a fine movie of the coming of age genre. While it has its flaws I would certainly recommend this Independent film to anyone who finds feel good dramas to their liking and I for one look forward to seeing more work of Maria Burton in the future. I hope you found this Review helpful and we look forward to continuing this new feature of Film Fervor.