A Home at the End of the World
For every moving, well-crafted book that successfully makes the transition to the big screen, there are a dozen cases in which something is lost in the translation from text to "major motion picture" (which begs the question, has anyone ever touted a movie as a minor motion picture?). Director Michael Mayer's drama A Home at the End of the World (2004) adapted for the screen by The Hours novelist Michael Cunningham from his own book falls into the latter camp. It's not that it completely fails as a movie; it's just that the limitations of time and celluloid make it impossible for the quiet, character-driven story to be as subtle and nuanced on screen as it is on the page. As a result, everything is painted too broadly, from the screaming red color of Robin Wright Penn's hair to the inevitability of the ending. A Home at the End of the World is primarily the story of Bobby Morrow, a tender-hearted fellow whose worldview is shaped by early loss (well, that and the peace-and-love philosophy of his older brother Carl). Instead of letting tragedy make him bitter and hard, Bobby adopts an "it's all good" outlook that turns him into a universal caretaker and bestower of unconditional love. As a teenager in the mid '70s, Bobby's (Erik Morrow) craving for affection and human connection leads him into an intense friendship with shy Jonathan Glover (Harris Allan) and a close relationship with Jonathan's parents Ned (Matt Frewer) and Alice (Sissy Spacek). Flash-forward to 1982: Bobby (played as an adult by Colin Farrell) moves to New York City and forges an unconventional new "family" with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts) and his vivid, bohemian roommate Clare (Wright Penn). The dynamic between the trio accounts for most of the film's dramatic tension, and it's up to the three stars to make the push and pull of their characters' complicated emotions believable. But Mayer doesn't give them enough opportunities to show, rather than tell, what makes them tick. Wright Penn's bright hair and colorful clothes are movie code for "free spirit," and Bobby's halting declarations and big doe eyes make him overly childlike. As a teen, Bobby sometimes seemed wise beyond his years, but as an adult, he's a little too oblivious to reality to seem real. Jonathan comes off as the richest character of the three; Roberts gives him a combination of intelligence and internal conflict that's more affecting than Clare's insecurity and Bobby's neediness. The good news for author Cunningham is that A Home at the End of the World may result in new readers turning to his book to fill in the characters' missing details and find out what else might not have made it onto the screen. Warner presents A Home at the End of the World in a good anamorphic transfer (2.35:1) with Dolby Digital 5.1 audio (English, French, and Spanish subtitles are also available). Despite the many rumors that a cut love scene between Farrell and Roberts would be included on the DVD, the only extras are a brief behind-the-scenes featurette and a trailer. Keep-case.