Starring: Andrew Garfield, Michael Shannon, Laura Dern
Director: Ramin Bahrani
Running Time: 112 mins
99 Homes is an American film about a working class father who is evicted from his family home along with his mother and young son, only to begin a climb out of homelessness by working for the very man who kicked him out in the first place.
This was a really surprising film. It may not sound like the most electrifying premise at first, but 99 Homes is actually a powerfully intense social drama with a passionate message, stunning performances and a very raw, realistic focus, all of which make for a truly enthralling watch.
The great thing about this film is that it grabs a tight hold of you right from the start. It’s by no means a fast-paced film, nor a particularly loud or action-packed one, but from one of the film’s very first sequences, where we see the eviction of the family take place, it’s impossible to look away from the screen.
In that one scene, director Ramin Bahrani sums up everything there is to know about what this film is trying to say, with a brutally frank and cold depiction of a devastating moment for a family. From the long and unbroken sequence of events to the sheer confusion of the people as they’re told that they’re trespassing on what they thought was their own property, it’s very difficult to watch, yet utterly stunning to witness.
And that’s where the film’s political conscience comes in. Above all, this is a story about the greediness of the people at the top at the expense of the people at the bottom. At times a pretty scathing attack on capitalism, the film really gets down to the nitty-gritty of what some people will do to advance their own agenda even when they’re playing with people’s livelihoods, but it’s so fascinating to follow.
Following on from the eviction early on, the film’s focus on our main character, the father of the evicted family, attempting to do anything he can to save his family and get his home back, presents the film’s most emotionally riveting point, bringing a devastating emotional and moral dilemma to the forefront as you begin to question how far is too far to save your own skin.
Throughout, the story is thrilling to watch, and with its politically charged conscience, as well as a fascinating emotional subplot, there’s not a moment that’s too dull here, something that’s furthered by the stunning performances from the two leading men.
Firstly, Andrew Garfield, who plays the evicted father, is incredible. From start to finish, he brings the earth-shattering drama of the situation at hand across brilliantly, and with a performance that changes so dramatically as his character is thrust into different worlds of poverty and wealth, Garfield handles it amazingly, adding hugely to the film’s emotional power.
And then there’s Michael Shannon. Although a far less showy turn that Garfield’s, it’s fair to say that Shannon often steals the show with a borderline terrifying performance as the ruthless capitalist who evicts poor families from their homes. I won’t go into too much detail about his actions, but suffice to say that Shannon has such a towering presence in every scene, even though he barely speaks a word in comparison to Garfield, that you’ll be quaking in your boots while gritting your teeth at a seriously powerful bad guy.
Overall, I was hugely impressed with 99 Homes. I think it’s an incredibly underrated film, filled with thrilling political, social and emotional drama that’s made even more powerful by exceptional directing and amazing performances, and that’s why I’m giving it an 8.0.