Review: Home Again
The lives of three Jamaicans residing in their respective adopted countries are subverted when they get hastily deported back to their birth country. While family and friends remain at home, they are forced to adapt to a world they know nothing of, as crime, poverty, and prostitution creep into their daily lives.
Who’s in It:
Tatyana Ali is most sympathetic as the Toronto single mother; Lyriq Bent gives a layered performance as a New York City man led into the Jamaican criminal world; Stephen James is Everton St. Clair, a British brat, both infuriating and heartbreaking. Fefe Dobson and CCH Pounder round out the strong cast.
While the adage is now clichéd, it’s never truer than in this film that you cannot go home again. We meet three individuals upon their sudden arrival to Jamaica after being forced from the countries in which they’ve lived most of their lives. Marva Johnson is forced to abandon her kids at the airport – and without a job or a proper residence, she cannot see them. Dunston Williams, an occasional criminal in the Big Apple, gets a job as a body man to a territorial gangster. Everton, meanwhile, a spoiled young Brit, sticks out like a sore thumb as he searches the slums for a relative he has never met.
Marva takes up resident with a distant uncle, a creep of a goat farmer. Dunston wields weapons and has eyes for a female servant. Everton spends his money as if he is on vacation. Be it out of naivete, desperation, or carelessness, none of the three are innocent, but they are sympathetic. Directed by Scarborough, Ontario native Sudz Sutherland, the audience too is taken from their comfort to the dirty and dangerous streets of Kingston and beyond. There is not an opportunity to achieve your dreams here, and there is little likelihood of returning home. Each much use what little they have to survive using whatever connections they can make: Dunston has muscle, Everton has money, and Marva simply has determination, though being a woman that’s not what catches the eye of some.
Unpredictable and gritty (both men encounter their fair share of bloody beatings) each character goes through a tumultuous series of ups and downs, at times verging on death while at others seemingly in complete control. Each tale eventually intersects, conveniently albeit, offering a more dramatic though clean conclusion. Deft pacing keeps each story intriguing until they start to intertwine, but some heavy music distracts, leading a curious audiences towards unnecessary melodrama. A few slow-motion scenes during some sudden moments temper the surprise, as if not to startle the audience.
The film possesses a political message that is strong and sure, but brief. It offers a note at the beginning and end, urging a relaxing of deportation laws, while in between offering a compelling portraiture of three individuals forced to confront a place they had hoped to leave behind.
Should You See It?
If you missed it at TIFF, it’s definitely worth a viewing.
A hopeful and naïve phrase echoed by the main characters early and often: “I’ll only be here a minute.”