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A Home At The End of the World (15)

Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: One

THE off-screen antics of Colin Farrell go some way to diminishing the impact of his on-screen performance in A Home At The End of the World, an intriguing but not entirely successful look at an unconventional relationship between two men from 1967 through to the early 1980s.

Farrell stars as Bobby Morrow, a quietly spoken misfit, who has grown up amid some terrible personal tragedies and cannot stand to be alone.

Naive, confused, yet desperate for love, he befriends fellow student, Jonathan (played by newcomer, Dallas Roberts) and is quickly adopted by his family, which is headed up by Sissy Spacek's liberal-minded, joint-smoking mother.

Yet the bond which forms between the two men remains with them through life, so much so that Bobby eventually follows Jonathan to New York, where he meets and falls in love with Robin Wright Penn's frustrated hatmaker, Clare.

When Clare eventually becomes pregnant, the trio resolve to set up home together, creating a dysfunctional family that is rife with confusion, as each member comes to terms with their feelings for each other.

Stage director, Michael Mayer, has lovingly crafted an intense, personal and totally character-driven movie, based on Michael Cunningham's screenplay, which has been adapted from his own novel.

Yet, try as hard as it might, the film never feels as emotionally engaging as it should.

Much of this has to do with the story arcs of the characters, which some may find a little too contrived for their own good.

For instance, it is clear that Bobby and Jonathan love each other, yet their relationship flits from being sexually driven and experimental, to brotherly and borderline paternal.

Needless to say, the presence of Clare confuses matters still further, particularly as Clare, herself, has feelings for both men, and probably loves the outwardly gay Jonathan the most.

The decision to start a family therefore seems something of a mistake from the outset, and Cunningham's predictable screenplay does little to disprove this theory.

What's more, Farrell seems to be struggling to cope with the demands of the role, playing totally against type and looking and feeling a little awkward to boot.

When he kisses Jonathan for the first time, audiences will probably be thinking something like 'that's Colin Farrell kissing a guy', while the scene in which he confesses to Clare that he is a virgin, at 20, almost brings out the sniggers.

It says much about the actor's performance that he is unable to convince in either scenario.

The same cannot be said for Roberts, who provides a memorable portrayal of Jonathan, even if he, too, has trouble courting the sympathy of the audience.

Penn, meanwhile, brings the same sort of cooky charm to her role as she has done in a number of performances, most notably Forrest Gump, which found her as a similarly tragic character.

Mayer's direction, while predictable, does delight in several places, displaying a keen eye for the look of each era, and using his characters' fashion sense (both in terms of dress and hairstyle) to generate much of the humour.

But he dispenses with one of the better characters far too early and, aside from Spacek, provides very few people to truly identify with.
His film also feels a little too tightly packed, given that it moves from the late 60s to the early 80s in a meagre 90 minutes, chronicling everything from the free love of the Woodstock era to the advent of the AIDS epidemic in the early 80s.

So while clearly a labour of love for all involved, the film ultimately cannot sustain the weight of its own ambition, or the baggage that its central star brings to proceedings.

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