Blerd Film Club: Home (2013)

Mental Health is a hot button issue right now. How do we treat people with mental health afflictions or illnesses? Should people he sought after treatment be allowed to own guns? Should we ban people with mental health issues from living near schools? Is prison really the right place for people who have a major break? We often look at these topics in grand sweeping opinions. We don't truly humanize each other. Nobody suffering with their mental health chose to do that, and each one is an individual. No film I've ever seen touches on that more than Home.

The film begins with Jack waking up violently screaming through his night terrors. Several staff members attempt to hold Jack down in fear that he'll violently attack another person. His roommate Hamilton cheers him on. At some point he's awakened and fighting for his life being choked by Hector, one of the attendees. When he's free and taken his medications we see Jack go about his day to day life. He shaves, dresses in a suit and tie, then heads to work with his briefcase. As we see more of his day, we learn more about Jack. He's a delivery boy, but he carries the briefcase and dresses the way he does because he wants to be taken seriously. Inside the briefcase are plans to move out of the assisted living facility he currently resides in.

Soon we realize things aren't exactly going as planned for Jack, which is difficult because he planned every detail. The new doctor on staff, Dr. Parker, is now in charge of deciding if Jack can leave or not. He's dismissive of Jack's concerns and doesn't bother looking at Jack's plan because he doesn't think Jack can create one. The relationship with his son John is being strained because John's mother Laura isn't exactly putting in a good word. The apartment Jack had saved up for, and found decides that he'll need. $2250 for the deposit instead of the initially agreed on $1350 and the rent will be $750, not $500. His father views him a handicapped child. He's feuding with one of the staff members, Hector, who may or may not be sexually assaulting another of the residents. One thing is for sure Hector does not care about the residents and views them all as freaks and nut cases.

After some time, Jack's friend Dundee stops showing up for work. Jack goes to look for him and learns that Dundee doesn't live how he claims to. Dundee isn't living in a mental health facility like Jack, he's living in one that doubles as a homeless shelter. Jack tracks him down and learns that Dundee hasn't been taking his medications. He's dirty, mumbling and his thoughts are scattered. Jack gives him some and Dundee wanders off saying he has things to do.

Jack's son John wants to know more about Jack's life, because his mother has told him Jack is dangerous. Jack holds off, mainly because he can't remember. After seeing Dundee and witnessing the breakdown of another patient he steals his file. Jack has multiple arrest in his history. Jack learns of all the things he's done and he goes to tell John. John sides with Jack over his mother because he wants to hear what happened that made her hate Jack.

Jack starts by explaining that he was sick. Very sick, and he's not anymore. One day, he took John on a trip to the zoo. They had a great time, and they were riding the bus home. This was the happiest time in Jacks's life, and he left John on the bus. In his mind he felt that John was perfect, he was the light and brought him so much joy. He just wanted other people to have that joy, that's why he left him on the bus. John gets upset, not because he was left on the bus, because he understands that Jack was sick. He's upset because he thinks Jack is only telling him this story because he won't really be getting his own apartment, and this is a way to walk out of John's life. Jack promises he'll never do that but John gets in the car with his mother and leaves.

Desperate to get the money, Jack returns to what he was doing in the past. He was a drug courier. He would go to a location, drop the drugs, take the money and come back. Jack was never late, never skimmed off the top, and never had any problems. This time the car drops him off, and people follow him. He gets the cash, and more people follow him out. His ride isn't there when he comes out so he runs and hides. He shows up late with all the money. There he's told he isn't getting paid because he messed up. Jack explains that this was a setup, the car wasn't there. They beat Jack and leave him without the money for the apartment.

Jack manages to find an apartment in his price range. However, he needs to convince Dr. Parker to sign him out. Dr. Parker changes the appointment time, and Jack misses it because he's signing the lease. He tries to explain during the group session but Dr. Parker ignores him. Eventually one of the other patients speaks up. Dr. Parker is excited, only to be told "Jacks's hand is up." Jack explains the situation, takes responsibility, and accepts his fate. Dr. Parker signs the form. The next day we watch as some of the residents accompany Jack to his new home.

We fast forward, and see Jack's apartment. It's simple, a television, a futon, and a coffee table. Laura knocks at the door with John. John eagerly rushes in, excited. Laura acknowledges Jack's place. He offers her food, she declines. But then she leaves, finally trusting Jack to take care of John.

I think the film does a good job portraying how hard it can be for people to receive mental health care and how they can even be shunned by the people they care about. The staff is supposed to be caring for these people but many of them don't. Dr. Parker is dismissive of their complaints from the start and at one point tells Jack to stop trying to help people because he doesn't know shit. On the flip side of the coin people Like Laura actually do care, but their hands are tied.

I've never had to live in one of these places, but because of the line of work I'm in, I come across a lot of people who have lived in these facilities and similar homeless shelters. The stories they tell aren't so different. Dismissive and abusive staff. Some have stories of money being stolen by the staff or other patients. The ailments that people have doesn't always make for the best living situations. I have no idea what is wrong with Hamilton. Ginnie just doesn't take no as an answer and Samuel just has some anger issues. Still, people like Jack and Denise have very serious illnesses. It's a wide spectrum and there just isn't enough staff to ensure that everyone gets the kind of treatment they need.

The same can be said for personal relationships. Jack's father spends time lecturing Jack about needing to take care of things that matter. We also learn that Jack's father abandoned the family when Jack's mother's schizophrenia developed. Later she got sick and continued working two jobs until she died because he refused to help the family. When Jack attempts to borrow money he feigns surprise that Jack is not only working, but brushing his own teeth.

The one that bother's me most is with Laura, the mother of Jack's son John. The relationship seems unnecessarily antagonistic. When they were together, Jack had a break that caused him to set the apartment on fire while they were still inside. It is completely fair that she is upset about this. However, she goes to lengths that are somewhat petty. She forces her new husband Myron to accompany Jack and John on outings because she doesn't trust Jack. At one point John asks about what Jack did in the past because his mother is constantly bringing up the fire. She tells John if he wants to know more, he needs to ask Jack. Jack obliges, because Jack's mother suffered from schizophrenia, the same way Jack does and it can be hereditary. She's upset that Jack tells John the truth, despite telling John he needs to get it from Jack. There's a moment when Jack gifts John tickets to a baseball game for his birthday. John knows that his mom won't let Jack and John go alone, so he tells John to take Myron. Myron promises that if Jack just asks Laura will be okay with it. Except she wasn't. She takes the tickets and travels to the facility Jack is living in to yell at him in front of everyone he lives with about why he should have gotten three tickets. She then refuses to let Myron accompany John to the game. I understand why she doesn't like Jack and she has every reason to be upset, but some of the distances she goes to doesn't only harm Jack, it harms John and to a lesser extent Myron as well. There's a moment when Jack and John are playing catch. John starts to throw harder and wilder pitches in an attempt to hurt Jack. Myron and Jack both pick up on this. When Jack figures out why both he and Myron look at each other in confusion because it was revealed that Laura had told John some things that hurt the relationship.

I think the film does a better job than a lot of self-proclaimed mental health advocates in explaining just how fucked up the mental health care in America is, excuse my bluntness. It's a great film, just from the drama aspect, but they go to extra lengths to portray the way people with mental health afflictions are treated. There's a monologue by Hamilton that doesn't have much to do with the story but it's beautiful. He asks why Jack would want to live anywhere else. On the outside world people stare, they pull their kids away when you're just on a walk in the park for no reason. The world treats you like you're trash, and they don't even know you. It's a tough film to watch, not because it's bad. It's just tough to watch because I know there are millions of Jacks around the country and billions more world wide.

You can check out some of my fiction at 12 AM Fiction or follow my web serial Exsanguinate and of course hear me on the Powerbomb Jutsu podcast.
Blerd Film Club: Home (2013) Blerd Film Club: Home (2013) Reviewed by Darrell S. on Friday, February 21, 2020 Rating: 5

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