Apparently it was no accident that Marcia Gay Harden captured the Academy Award for Best Actress in a Supporting Role (“Pollock”-2000). Her extraordinary talent is again on display in this month’s release of Mary Haverstick’s poignant film titled simply, “Home.” And Harden’s talent must bear a genetic connection if the performance of her very own daughter, Eulala Scheel, in this same film, is any indication. The two convey amazing warmth and affection on film. Young Miss Scheel is a scene-stealing prodigy at the ripe old age of eleven, and with her peaches and cream complexion looks like she popped out of a Renoir painting.
The touching story, Written and directed by Haverstick, is told partially in well-crafted flashbacks, as it reveals the struggles of a poet named Inga (Harden). Inga makes the difficult journey through breast cancer diagnosis, surgery, suspenseful follow-up exams, and all the related family stresses and conflicts thereunto appertaining. That journey is compounded by battles with alcoholism for both her and her increasingly inattentive husband, Hermann (Michael Gaston). While such a plot could well be a “downer,” this one is not. Several elements combine to turn the film into a rich and rewarding experience. Above all, we have the very believable onscreen love and clashes between Harden and her gifted daughter. Scheel plays Inga’s daughter, Indigo, and gives us a mystical little girl full of curiosity and mischief, while at the same time wise enough to see the self-destructive nature of her mother’s alcoholism. For visual relief, there is the lovely Pennsylvania Dutch country setting, so beautifully filmed by cinematographer, Richard Rutkowski (who actually captures real clouds moving across a blue sky, something rarely seen in films shot on the back lots). Additionally, the haunting and tender musical score of Michele Mercure seems to perfectly complement every scene.
The film’s title reflects the centrality of the old country house that Inga lived in as a child. Now the home of her aged aunt, Peggy (Marian Seldes), it is a house full of memories, and Inga dreams of perhaps buying the place, but her financially troubled husband would rather invest in booze and solitude. With a twinkle in her eye and the collected wisdom of age, Aunt Peggy is delightfully portrayed by Miss Seldes, whom I had the pleasure of seeing on Broadway in 2007 when she co-starred, with Angela Lansbury, as a pair of aging tennis champions in Terrence McNally’s, “Deuce.”
Haverstick’s flashback scenes are extremely well designed, especially in the stark surrealism of the hospital ward sequences. In many scenes, memories are revealed as Inga’s voice can be heard reciting her touching poems. And there are shattering scenes when Inga savagely confronts her husband, and then, in a drunken stupor, clashes violently with the daughter she truly adores. There are occasional continuity lapses, and from time to time dialogue that is difficult to hear, but the performances of mother and daughter are breathtaking, and don’t bet against a satisfying conclusion for this beautifully crafted film.
Rated PG-13, ”Home” is slated for a New York City Theatrical Premiere in 5 theaters in May 2009, followed by additional top 40 markets, and DVD release through MontereyMedia.com.