Rating: 3 out of 5.

Actress Franka Potente makes her directorial debut with the emotionally captivating new drama, Home. Ex-felon Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) has been in jail for 17 years after committing murder, and now he’s finally returning home. Things aren’t the way Marvin left them at all—one of his closest friends, Wade (Derek Richardson) is now a burnt-out druggie living off the grid, and his ailing mother, Bernadette (Kathy Bates), has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The town he once called home has turned against him entirely, but the granddaughter of Marvin’s victim, Delta (Aisling Franciosi), may hold the key to forgiveness and salvation.

I noticed a major Ryan Murphy connection with the cast: both Kathy Bates and director Franka Potente have worked with the megaproducer on American Horror Story. Potente directs with an eye for capturing the authenticity of her performers. Bates is just as incredible as you would expect, tugging at your heartstrings as her condition progresses. Lead actor Jake McLaughlin is decent as Marvin. There’s a stiffness to the character bordering on stuffy, and McLaughlin comes out of his shell just like Marvin. Derek Richardson is completely unrecognizable as Marvin’s childhood bestie Wade, and serves as a sobering reminder of Marvin’s past. Lil Rel Howery kills it in a supporting part essential to the emotional throughline. Marvin’s connections to others are firmly established, which contribute to a somber conclusion. 

I loved everything Home was trying to accomplish, and it occasionally follows through with its lofty ambitions. I couldn’t help long for Kathy Bates to have a more souped up role. While Bernadette is vital to Home’s endgame, her relationship with Marvin occasionally feels like an afterthought. Bates doesn’t become a key player until 24 minutes into the movie. This is a major misstep, and it’s one that leaves Home feeling like a chair with a wonky leg. All the pieces are here, but they aren’t properly balanced for optimum comfort.

Home screened at the San Francisco International Film Festival, April 9th – April 18th.

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