Home at the End of the World, A (USA; 120 min.)


directed by: Michael Mayer
starring: Colin Farrell; Robin Wright Penn; Dallas Roberts
A Home at the End of the World
 
Bruce says: "Quirkiness of character is always a difficult thing to bring to the screen. Conveying quirkiness successfully involves the right combination of visual aspects, how lines are delivered and what is left unsaid. That means those in charge of casting, the director, actors, and writers must all be on the same wave length. Having read the novel I feel that A HOME AT THE END OF THE WORLD feels better on the printed page than it appears on the screen. Why? Two reasons. For this film to work properly all three of the leading roles must be cast perfectly. Selecting Robin Wright Penn for the role of Clare was a bad choice. She is a bit long in the tooth for the role and her quirkiness appears fake, not real. The second and lesser reason is the dialogue which at moments is rambling and too fraught with meaning, a problem of both the writing and direction. Less would have been more.

"Bobby Morrow, age 9, is just a normal kid in Cleveland with steam engine wallpaper in his room. He worships his brother Carleton who teaches him to be a free spirit by giving him acid – windowpane for 'clarity of vision.' When he stumbles upon his brother and his girlfriend having sex, Carleton asks Bobby, 'are you freaked out?’ Bobby replies, 'No. A little.' Carleton reassures him with 'It’s just love, man.' Then Carleton walks through a plate glass window by accident at a family party. He dies. In ways, Bobby gets stuck in that moment. He never evolves emotionally and intellectually, remaining simple, uncomplicated and strangely accepting of whatever happens along.

"While in high school Bobby befriends one of the nerdiest boys in school, Jonathan Glover. They become fast friends. While they are smoking pot in Jonathan’s bedroom, Jonathan’s mother (Sissy Spacek) walks in. In no time Bobby has her sharing the joint with them. Suddenly she is slow dancing with Bobby to Laura Nyro. When Bobby becomes orphaned there is no question where Bobby will live; after all, he and Jonathan are like brothers. Next, Mrs. Glover catches the two boys in mutual masturbation. Later that night Bobby goes to the kitchen and finds Mrs. Glover baking a pie. She confesses, 'I’m not the mother I’m supposed to be. I’m the adult here.' Bobby offers, 'I should go.' Mrs. Glover counters with, 'Wanna make a pie?' That’s how Bobby begins learning to bake and for the next few years that’s just about all he does.

"When he graduates from high school, Jonathan leaves for college in New York where he remains after graduation. Bobby stays with the Glovers until they move to Phoenix. Now homeless in his late twenties, Bobby (Colin Farrell) goes to New York to live with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) and Clare, a straight older woman living with the young, promiscuous gay man she loves but cannot have. She wants to have his child. Soon Clare seduces Bobby. Slowly the triangle begins to take its shape. Each person finds perfection in the combination of the other two. It is a delicate balancing act.

"When Clare becomes pregnant, the three move to Woodstock, buy a house, open a restaurant and begin parenting. The fantasy, however, is better than the reality. Clare can never have Bobby’s undivided love or Jonathan’s physical love. Nor can Jonathan have the physical love he wants from Bobby. Only Bobby is happy. As simple as Bobby appears, he is the glue that keeps the triangle together. Mrs. Glover tells Clare, 'I think you’re very brave.' Clare replies skeptically, 'Maybe I’m not this unusual.' When Jonathan remarks to Bobby, 'Doesn’t this all feel...strange?,' Bobby says 'It’s perfect.' Then when Jonathan remarks that he is starting to feel superfluous, Bobby says 'You’re essential, man.'

"Colin Farrell completely captures the complicated essence of his character, which is key to making the film work. He has his quirks down pat. It is no easy task to be intensely physical with Jonathan and convince the viewer that his physical gestures are not sexual. Dallas Roberts is perfect as well. His performance is marvelously nuanced, filled with small gestures that define his quirkiness. Sissy Spacek is remarkable as the mother who sees what her life might have been through the life her son has stumbled upon. Michael Mayer does a lot of things well considering this is his directorial debut. One wishes he could have been slightly more seasoned. 4 cats"

 

Chris says: "Even though it cuts out a fairly major character and settles for an omniscient point of view (rather than the book's chapter = character narration), Michael Cunningham mostly captures the essence of his beautiful book in his adapted screenplay. The story follows the shifting relationship of two Cleveland teenagers, Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) and Bobby (Farrell), from the '60s through the '80s when they reunite in New York and attempt a makeshift family with a female friend, Claire (Robin Wright-Penn). There are many highly emotional scenes that could've easily been cheapened into melodramatic hackwork, but instead, they're handled deftly and thoughtfully. I can recall one halfway through that left me absolutely shaken.

"The cast is stellar, especially newcomer Roberts and the inimitable Sissy Spacek as his mother. Even Colin Farrell proves not to be an odd, misguided choic! e as Bobby--it's probably his least flashiest, realest performance to date. I also hope people take notice of the actors playing teen-aged Jonathan and Bobby (Harris Allan and Erik Smith), as they're responsible for the scene I alluded to above.

"This really isn't an unconventional or innovative film via construction or execution (like LOST IN TRANSLATION), and, as with most adaptations, it felt a little truncated. But I was admittedly moved by the meditative, ambiguous ending. Good first film for director Michael Mayer, and a few great, wonderfully-placed familiar songs on the soundtrack. 4 cats.

"(One note: What I saw in P-Town wasn't the final cut. In a Q and A with Roberts after the screening, he mentioned a key scene that was cut, but will be restored when the film hits theaters in late July. It changes our perception of Bobby considerably, and although the film didn't fall apart without it, now that I know about it I'd be sorely disappointed if it didn't make the final cut.)"

 
Michael says: "I'm going to let you in on a little secret. Although I love Michael Cunningham's writing, and most of his novels, I, unlike just about anyone else who has read it, am not a fan of his novel, A Home at the End of the World. Therefore, since the movie is a pretty accurate adaptation to the novel, I'm not a huge fan of the movie.

Of course, now I have to qualify all that. The performances in the film are exceptional. Also, there are many moments of beauty in the film, both cinematic, and with regard to the screenplay, just as in the book. There's just something about the story as it is presented, two men and a woman trying to make a home and family for themselves together, that leaves me a little cool.

In many ways, the central character is Bobby, played with aching vulnerability and openness by Colin Farrell. Bobby lives a life of loss, as each of the people he loves is taken from him, quite often tragically. It's interesting to note that Bobby's characters is the same throughout his life... little changes in his personality, but what appears wise in youth, often appears lost in adulthood. Jonathan, played with assured competence by newcomer Dallas Roberts, is Bobby's gay best friend from childhood. When Bobby finds himself alone in his hometown, he seeks out Jonathan, living his own life in New York City. Clare is the third side of this triangle, played marvelously by the underrated Robin Wright Penn. She is in love with Jonathan, but finds an outlet for her feelings in Bobby. The power of this triangle flows from point to point, but in fact, it is Jonathan who draws the energy from both of the other two.

Director Michael Mayer does a pretty good job for a first-timer, but there are several awkward moments to balance his sublime ones. Perhaps the film would have been better served by a more seasoned director, but again, for me, it's probably the story that undercuts the power of the film. 3 cats
 
Carolyn says: "After watching this movie, I could not stop thinking about it. I think just about every part of it was perfect. I think it was well cast. The dialogue and direction made for a wonderful trip with the heavy subject well laid out and interspersed with comic and casual situations. The musical choices also added to the whole story. It must have if I noticed the synchronicity of music and emotion. The characters were real as were the situations and relationships. I shed many tears and nearly forgot I was in the theater watching a movie. I have watched many movies in the past week and this is the best. 5 cats"