There is a scene in #Home where Indrans is sitting inside a restaurant separated from the relatively younger and ‘cooler’ members of his family. I once happened to see the exact real-life version of this scene when I went to a restaurant alone. This father was seated in front of me—because my table had only one person —while his son, wife, and kids occupied a different table. Indrans’ character, Oliver Twist, reminded me of him. They couldn’t have picked a better actor to play him.
Like the father in the above anecdote, the actor can convey volumes without saying anything. You can tell what he is thinking by simply looking at his face. Each member of the film’s central family—Kainakary Thankaraj as the grandfather; Indrans, the father; Manju Pillai, the mother; and Sreenath Basi and Naslen as their sons Anthony and Charles, respectively—seems to experience this alienation to a certain degree. They seem to exist in separate compartments while living under the same roof.
When we meet Anthony, he is a filmmaker with a single film to his name, leading a disorderly existence. He has been struggling to complete the climax of his second film. The producer (Maniyanpilla Raju) is growing impatient by the day. The latter suggests that he write the last act in the same place where he wrote his successful debut. It’s a nice segue to the film’s title. Is a chaotic, messy lifestyle with your loved ones better than the same with yourself? #Home seeks to answer this question while addressing a lot of other things.
#Home is not so much an English Vinglish-style story of a person trying to learn about something as a document of a fictitious family, told like an epic (duration: 160 mins). I loved how the film gives equal space to every character and takes its time to bring out their peculiar characteristics. It packs so many relatable Indian moments: the mother trying to wake her son up by increasing the fan’s speed; the same lazy son not bothering to put back all the teacups; and the two sons occasionally peeping inside the refrigerator because, as one of them says, “It’s a habit, just like checking the phone all the time.” Before I sat down to write this review, I came across at least four people who told me they saw themselves or their parents in these characters.
For instance, Oliver notes down everything he learns about social media apps in a diary. My mother does that. If she saw this film, I’m sure she would be pointing to this scene like Leonardo DiCaprio in that meme. And Sreenath Bhasi’s Anthony represents a multitude of young Indian men forced to detach themselves for the sake of work. Anthony is not the ‘bad guy’ here; his plight is perfectly understandable if you have experienced/are experiencing the same.
Yes, on the surface, #Home appears to be a story of a man trying to fill the emotional void caused by the technological divide and generational gap. But it’s also, primarily, an emotionally overpowering story of self-acceptance. You could call it the ‘coming-of-age’ of a man in his 60s, triggered by a particular incident that becomes a major cause of embarrassment for Anthony, the filmmaker, and guilt for Oliver. It’s a relief to see Indrans not play him too seriously. Oliver is, after all, someone who doesn’t make a huge deal about all the conflicts he encounters. He has a sense of humour, and in some cases, he is not even trying to invoke laughter. It just happens organically, and who better than an actor blessed with an incredible flair for comedy.
One of my favourite moments in the film has Anthony approaching a superstar named Vishal (Anoop Menon) to pitch his script, and he sees that the former has taken a liking to Oliver instead of him. Another wonderfully comical moment has Oliver accompanying his best friend Suryan (Johny Antony in another hilarious performance) to a psychologist (Vijay Babu, vibrant as usual).
I must give #Home props for using this last stretch to address India’s mental health stigma. Though initially apprehensive about the thought of anyone seeking expert help, Oliver doesn’t take too long to warm up to the idea and eliminate whatever misconceptions he may have—learning the difference between a psychologist and a psychiatrist, for instance —even when his friend remains severely sceptical.
The film makes some pertinent points even when the delivery seems straight out of an awareness video at times. However, one thing that puzzled me is the choice of music in several places.
I wonder why the makers chose to overstuff the film with generic, unmemorable tunes to inform us of the emotion of each scene? Since most actors here possess the gift of subtle expression, it’s awkward when each performance gets constantly underscored by a corresponding piece of music to tell us what we are supposed to feel at a given point. Isn’t everything evident without the inclusion of music? Not that there is anything wrong with using it—it’s cinema, after all—but it would’ve worked better in moderation for a 160-min duration film. The familiarity of some musical choices begins to wear one down after a point. Sometimes the music is as intrusive as Charles’ noisy demands.
Fortunately, the film’s heavily poignant ending redeems its minor shortcomings. It got me teary-eyed in a way that no other recent Malayalam film managed to do. I must thank the makers for doing a film that helps reverse, to a certain extent, the after-effects of some of the dark Malayalam thrillers released recently.
Director: Rojin Thomas
Cast: Indrans, Sreenath Bhasi, Naslen, Manju Pillai, Kainakary Thankaraj
Streaming on: Amazon Prime Video