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| March 25, 2014 | 0 Comments

First-time director Jono Oliver brings to life a brilliant movie that covers the issue of mental health in such a soft, caring way that allows The Wire actor Gbenga Akinnagbe to shine.

It is rare that a film from a first-time director receives one award but when a feature is honored with 15 substantive awards, it is truly remarkable. Home won honors at 14 film festivals in 2013, and Oliver’s movie also competed against 12 Years a Slave and Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom, among others during the recent NAACP Image Awards.

Akinnagbe has also played in Graceland and Nurse Jackie. He plays  33-year-old Jack Hall, a man suffering from mental illness, whose goal is to move out of his group home where he’s been receiving treatment and into an apartment of his own. By doing so, he hopes to rebuild his life, reconnect with his estranged son and put himself back on a path to normalcy. Rebuffed by his uncaring father, played by Joe Morton, and met with clearly well-deserved suspicion by his embittered ex-wife, played by Tawny Cypress, Jack becomes increasingly desperate, which fuels his life-changing journey and self-growth.

All Jack wants is to get out of the group home and get his own apartment, and while his release from the group home isn’t certain—he still has to past the muster of the resident therapist Dr. Parker, played by James McDaniel—his dreams of becoming independent are. He is committed to starting a new life soon, and he is as committed to avoid all the obstacles that he knows are in his way. Among these is the neighborhood drug dealer who is bent on enlisting Jack as one of his soldiers.

Jack’s character is so endearing, and, as shattered as his life is, he is also concerned about his fellow patients at the group home and one friend who lives on the street, working minimum hours delivering groceries. Jack wonders if he has taken his medication as he should and offers him some when he sees one day that the friend is a bit flustered and agitated.

And although Jack’s ex-wife tries to be understanding by letting Jack see his teen son, he can only be with him if she or her new husband serves as chaperone. Jack has a hard road ahead, and Oliver covers these steps nicely. He runs into roadblock after roadblock to secure sufficient, affordable housing that will be approved by the group home. But the smile on Jack’s face when he finally does get his apartment and invites his son over is priceless!

Home is a great first effort by Oliver. It examines mental illness outside of the confines of the group sessions, and each patient’s character is allowed to be developed, so that the viewer gets a taste of each one’s issues.

Home is available from eOne Films on March 25, and Oliver succeeds in packing considerable dramatic impact, largely due to incisive characterizations, realistic dialogue and well-drawn milieu in this poignant film. The DVD contains bonus audio commentary with director Jono Oliver and deleted and alternate scenes, as well as a photo gallery. Visit www.homethefilm.com for more information.

About the Author:

Elaine Hegwood Bowen is an editor, writer and film critic in Chicago. She is the author of "Old School Adventures from Englewood--South Side of Chicago" and the proud parent of "the smart rapper"--chemist-turned-rapper, turned humanitarian...Psalm One!
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