A Home at the End of the World (18)Thursday 21 Oct 2004
Directed by Michael Mayer, starring Colin Farrell, Robin Wright Penn, Sissy Spacek, Dallas Roberts, Andrew Chalmers. Erik Smith, Harris Allan.
'A Home at the End of the World' sounds far more intriguing - a ménage-à-trois, with Colin Farrell and Robin Wright Penn making up two of the corners - than it actually is. It has also aroused interest as the film that was cut because Farrell's nudity was distracting audiences from the plot - and boy, is there plenty of plot to get distracted from.
Adapted by Michael Cunningham (author of 'The Hours') from his own novel of the same name, 'A Home at the End of the World' takes a whistle-stop tour through three ages in Bobby Morrow's life - nine-year-old acid-taking, Jefferson Airplane-loving kid; geeky, hippie teenager; and innocent let lose in 1980s New York City.
At the start of the film, Bobby (Chalmers) walks in on his adored older brother Carlton (Jonathan Rhys-Myers lookalike Donowho) in bed with his girlfriend. The girl runs out but Carlton explains to the wide-eyed little boy that "It's just love, man, nothing but love." This introduction to sex, drugs - they drop acid together - and rock and roll (the aforementioned Jefferson Airplane) happens at an impressionable age, and is further enforced by Carlton's accidental death in front of Bobby's eyes.
Skip forward seven years to 1974 and Bobby (Smith) is an unconventional teenager, still channelling the spirit of Carlton. Orphaned and alone, he is taken in by the family of his friend Jonathan (Allan) whose mother Alice (Spacek), comes to see the loveable Bobby as a second son. In one of the film's finer moments he introduces Alice to marijuana and Laura Nyro with the words, "we're all beautiful and lonely here". He also helps Jonathan to realise his true sexual leanings, something which gets picked up in the final segment - 1982 New York.
Arriving in the big city, Bobby (now played by Farrell) moves into the apartment that Jonathan (Roberts) shares with free-spirited hat designer Clare (Wright Penn). Jonathan is clearly gay, taking advantage of all New York has to offer, while Clare wants to have a baby and Bobby's presence offers her a way of doing just that. He's a naïve man-child who wants everybody to be happy - but their love triangle can't balance forever.
The biggest problem with 'A Home at the End of the World' is the huge amount of narrative ground that it has to cover in just 95 minutes. The central premise - that of a family being more about what you make than what you're born into - is almost lost amongst the episodic nature of this film and the audience's emotional connection with the characters falters long before the end. Fortunately, strong performances from all involved, particularly the central 1982 trio, manage to prevent it from totally sinking under the weight of its message but the actors are ill-served by Cunningham's script.