Directed by Chris Purnell
Starring: Patrick O'Brien, Kitty Colquhoun, Mariel McAllan and Simon Messer
Indie Film Review by Bailey Claringbold
Mark (O'Brien) is a returning soldier, finding life outside the army extremely challenging and confusing. Struggling with potential PTSD, he needs someone to talk to and somebody to confide in. Fighting a losing battle with his love life and family, Mark decides to try and break through his depression by turning to counselling, however, this causes him to question his morals even more when he is introduced to his psychiatrist (Colquhoun).
Right from the get-go, Back Home is set up to deal with extremely mature and somewhat dark themes, whilst shrewdly commenting on our society. The strongest aspect of this film was definitely its screenplay. I enjoyed how Purnell's writing went from being gritty and dramatic in one scene, to being highly insightful and true-to-life in the next. The dialogue between Mark and his psychiatrist was fluid, managing to effectively maintain the pace from beginning to end. I also became engrossed by the monologues given by Mark about his experiences throughout.
O'Brien gave an overall strong lead performance, expertly selling his emotional turmoil and dispiritedness to the audience through his expressions and non-verbal communication. He particularly excelled in the second act of Back Home, when he makes a discovery about his neighbour that made me really start to understand the psyche of the character. In regards to Colquhoun and the supporting cast, their performances weren't quite on the same par as the leading man. Some of the line delivery seemed robotic at times, which was rather blatant next to the passionate conveyance of O'Brien. This may have been intentional, however, did not sit well in some instances.
The most interesting aspect of Grant McPhee's cinematography in Back Home, was the way some of the scenes cut to extreme close ups of Mark or his psychiatrist to represent their contemplation or personal realisations as the story unfolds. This was heightened by the bleached out colour palette letting us know when these moments occurred. This made for a stimulating juxtaposition next to the generally dull and washed out tones of the rest of the film. The shots are edited together pretty seamlessly, leaving the movie with a sense of continuity. Despite this, many of the shaky cam shots appeared out of place. They took me out of the film at times, for example when a handheld shot of a building lingered on for too long, which is a shame as the majority of the cinematography is brilliant here.
Sound was utilised exceptionally well throughout, Kevin Murray's score managed to almost mimic the feelings of Mark, moving from mellow to being cutting and tense as he did, which I appreciated. My favourite part of the score came in the third act, which stands out from the first portion. However, the best use of sound by far was when the music fizzled out sharply after Mark butts into his psychiatrist's sentences.
Back Home is a story that hooks you into sympathising with Mark and the dilemmas that he faces. The characters were pleasingly developed due to the meticulously written screenplay. Although the performances are rocky in some places and the camera shots can take you away from the jeopardy, this is a largely impressive film for its exploration into human morality.