by Katharine Leis
Most films today have a point, a single point. They are designed to make you think, or to convey a moral. Rarely does a film come along that makes you feel. Truly feel. Touching Home accomplishes that, and many times over. Angst, unimaginable disappointment, crushing heartbreak, rage, and most of all…hope.This is not a dark film, and it’s not an autobiographical pity party. It’s the true tale of two brothers who aspired to have more than the world seemed to want to give them…to be more than the world seemed to want them to be. The story is told though the times they wish they could forget, the moments that showed them what it truly means to forgive, and what never giving up really entails. Without the use of voiceovers or telling dialogue between characters, the viewer is lead up to these moments. Then, with brilliant care, we are allowed to live in these moments through the characters, never ever even once being able to guess what is to come next. This is how life works, and this is how a film should work…and Touching Home does so seamlessly.
"An incredible, true portrait of modern American determination"
In the world of clichés, Hollywood endings, and plot twists that don’t make any sense, how great it is to see a film that does what a film is supposed to do. Not just tell a story, but take the audience into another world, another life, another understanding.
Empathy, in the truest sense of the word, means having an understanding of someone's life other than your own...being able to feel what they feel. Touching Home was able to create true empathy for not only the main characters Clint and Lane, but for their father, too.
The film follows the stages of two young men’s lives from boyhood to young adulthood in Northern California. It opens with the two men carefully putting someone’s ashes to rest. Under a tree on a hill which overlooks a church and picturesque American landscape, they meticulously dig up the grass, pour the ashes, and plant many single flowers overtop. They then hang a simple wooden cross on the tree.
We’re then taken back in time to a baseball field, where we are introduced to identical twin brothers Clint and Lane Winston. Clint is a pitcher, Lane, the back catcher. The boys are no more than 10, and they play out the big game and win the trophy. Their coach is also a police officer, who drives them home. Home is a ramshackle, small place. As the coach drops them off, he asks if their father is home. They reply no, but that it’s OK, he doesn’t have to wait. The boys leave their trophy on the coffee table, along with a note that says “for you.”
“You” is their dad, played by Ed Harris, a drunk, shrunken man, whose face and form are much older than his years. Upon seeing the trophy and note, he hurls it against the wall, breaking it into pieces. Unable to fix it with glue, he passes out on the couch. The two boys emerge like mice in the night, cover him with a blanket, and pick up and mend their broken trophy.
At this point, after seeing so many modern movies, you may think, will this be “sports hero against all odds movie?” “bad drunk parent movie?” but what reveals itself over the next hundred minutes is anything but stereotypical fare.
Fast forward ten years and the boys are now young men, one plays baseball for the Colorado Rockies while the other is in Junior College(played by Logan and Noah Miller). Their father is now homeless, still in California, living in his truck at a local park. He works every day at a rock quarry, but his drinking and gambling take away all that he earns and more.
Things have seemed to go well for the boys against the odds. That is, until they are both cut from the team and expelled from school on the same day. Then, they are forced to go home, but not to stay... just to try to figure out how to leave home again.
There are so many subtle scenes, so many moments that play so realistically that it’s difficult to distinguish or separate them all after watching the film.
At first it’s not understood why their father can’t just put down the bottle, stop gambling, and just be good to his sons. Why can’t he get his act together long enough to be able to have a home other than his truck? Throughout the film, though, a feeling evolves that these were the same questions his sons were asking him, and the very same questions that he was asking himself.
The acting in this film, from the tiniest part to Logan and Noah’s sometimes explosive scenes, is all spot on. Every single character was not just believable, but real. Ed Harris was hardly recognizable in this role. He even walked with the gait of a broken man, and his eyes expressed the hollow void of hope.
The cinematography was genius. When the camera didn't need to move, it didn't. The care and knowledge of every frame shows a classic notion that film is art was respected throughout.
To make a film that shows the life of kids with an alcoholic parent is not a difficult task. To make a film that depicts life in America, of young people who want to achieve more in life than what they started with, that’s a little more challenging. To make a film that does so, invoked with a million tiny details, compassion, empathy, and not just showing what life is like but allowing the viewer to feel the exact same feelings, share the exact same experiences, and come away with the same understanding? Well, that’s a nearly impossible task, but that’s exactly what Logan and Noah Miller have done in Touching Home.It’s actually impossible to believe the truth: this was their first acting, first writing, and first directing effort…and what an effort it turned out to be. Many filmmakers will work their entire lives and not end up with a film as great as this.
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originally posted: 11/16/08 12:19:19