99 Homes – Film Review by Frank L.
Directed by Ramin Bahrani
Writers: Ramin Bahrani (story), Ramin Bahrani, 2 more credits »
Stars: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) is a young jack of all trades working on building sites in Florida. Like many another, he is living in his own mortgaged-up-to-the-hilt home with his mother (Laura Dern) and ten year old kid. The outfit for which he has been working, without warning, goes bust. The recession has hit and there are no jobs. He has no money to pay the mortgage and the bank forecloses on him. At the eviction which inevitably takes place he meets confrontationally Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) who is there to take possession on behalf of the bank. He and his family go to live in a single bedroom in a motel. Shortly afterwards he meets by chance Rick Carver and enters into a faustian pact with him. This pact while initially beneficial comes back to haunt him.
The entire film takes place in the bright sunshine of Florida. However the sunshine cannot hide the grimness of the plight of the people who find themselves in debt. The level of debt endangers their homes. Michael Shannon is without emotion as he and the law enforcement officers carry out the evictions. He does not believe anyone should be sentimental about a house. Houses are commodities in his world. Andrew Garfield has the more complicated role to play of battling with his conscience as he carries out Rick Carver’s dirty work. He is driven by the need to protect his family and that need and his inner suppressed decency are in conflict. Garfield is subtle as he battles with himself as a result of the faustian agreement with Carver. Laura Dern as the mother gives a great performance as she comes to realise the nature of the pact her beloved son has entered.
Evictions and repossessions of homes are grim. In Florida, the easy accessibility of guns is an added ingredient which increases the tensions which surround them. The brittle bright sunshine of Florida on the other hand somehow creates a shiny gloss which makes the evictions in some way surreal.
Ramin Bahrani with his co-writer Amir Naderi have created a gripping film about a problem which is devastating for those at its core, the debtors. They demonstrate that it is possible to create a work of some significance with such unpleasant topics.