Director: Rojin Thomas
Cast: Indrans, Sreenath Bhasi, Vijay Babu, Manju Pillai, Neslin, Kainakary Thankaraj, KPAC Lalitha
The nominal head of #Home, directed by Rojin Thomas, is the father, beautifully played by Indrans. It’s excellent casting, and his character, Oliver Twist, is as relevant today as the video cassettes in the store he used to run. The world has passed him by and he hasn’t made much of an attempt to keep up with it. Indrans’ very face has that look that invites you to underestimate him. You look at him and go: this guy, what can he do? At the same time, his face and exquisitely controlled micro-emotions also invite sympathy. You look at him and go: poor guy! Of all the people in the house, it is left to him to clean up his aged father’s piss and shit. If only his own son were as understanding.
This son, Antony (Sreenath Bhasi) is a screenwriter and director who is struggling with his latest script. On the advice of his producer, he returns to his home — he lives some 200 kms away — and tries to write while surrounded by his family. The central arc of the script is a solid one. It is about how Antony looks at his father with borderline contempt, paying more attention to his smartphone, and how he, finally, comes to realise that the man has his own set of admirable qualities. But the screenplay never makes it clear what the big reason for the emotional distance is other than the fact that Antony’s father looks and acts like a loser and has accomplished nothing in his life, a fact that seems to bother no one else but Antony.
His younger brother Charles (Naslan Gafoor) is okay with it. His mother, Kuttiyamma (Manju Pillai), is okay with it. His girlfriend, played by Deepa Thomas, is okay with it. Even the superstar that Antony is writing the screenplay for — one of the many contrived scenes in the film — is okay with it. Only Antony is not okay with it. Right down the middle of the film, we get a solid, smartphone-related reason for Antony to really have issues with his father. But even that conflict is resolved pretty quickly. The convenient writing makes Antony a big admirer of his future father-in-law, who has achieved so much that he has written an autobiography. But this plot point, again, is not explored with any real depth. It feels like a snapshot of a college kid paying attention to another girl while his own, plain girlfriend watches sadly from the sidelines.
The screenplay, instead, keeps going off in various directions during its enormous running time of two hours and forty minutes. We get incredibly understanding and kind loan officers, who are incredibly forgiving of default payments. We get a psychologist, played by Vijay Babu, who is into tai chi. We get lectures on mental health. We get Antony constantly screaming at his girlfriend, who seems upset at times and completely okay at other times. And for all the buildup, we get a ridiculous reason for why Antony is so uncomfortable with himself.
Take the other narrative thread, which has Antony’s father wanting a smartphone. It’s never clear why he never bought himself one so far — the family seems quite well-off — or why the director thought it’s still funny to see the antics of the older generation struggling with new technology, especially a man who is constantly shown as a scientific genius. The one track that really works is Oliver Twist’s relationship with his best friend from childhood, Suryan, nicely played by Johny Antony. #Home does have some funny lines and many of them are between these two. There are also some sweet touches, like Oliver Twist washing Antony’s car. He is like many fathers who try to make up for the lack of a close emotional relationship with their children by doing mechanical tasks for them.
In the end, #Home feels like a big missed opportunity. At the cost of strengthening the character arcs, the film goes for capital-C Cute touches, like the last name of everyone in the family being Oliver Twist. Yes, the character in the Charles Dickens novel is an orphan who finally finds his way to a family, just like Antony here finally finds his emotional way back to his family. Still it’s too self-conscious, much like the “extraordinary” story that shapes the central event. The story is meant to be huge and magical, but it comes off as terribly contrived. But I did like these lines delivered by Antony’s future father-in-law: If you don’t express yourself, if you don’t explore who you are, then the essence of you will be lost forever. It’s a superb thought, even if the film itself never finds its essence.