Available on Apple TV from 24th January, a man returns home after spending almost 20 years in jail to face up to his past in a small Californian town where not everyone is happy to see his return. From first time female director Franka Potente, starring Jake McLaughlin (Warrior) and Kathy Bates (Misery) it is a bittersweet tale dealing with bereavement.
It’s been almost 20 years for 40 year old Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) who is returning home to his mother’s after a long stretch in prison. Within the first 5 minutes he’s skateboarded across half of California, turned down a quickie with a waitress, waited the longest time possible for a supermarket coffee and wrestled his mother’s home help to the floor. It seems a peculiar backwater part of the world and Marvin is no different. A tall athletic looking guy who looks physically intimidating in his sports tracksuit with tattoos on his arms, hands and neck, and his hair slicked back and shaved at the sides. Having spent so long away things must be pretty strange for him as he discovers what he’s missed in the world and reminisces with his old druggie loser friend Wade (Derek Richardson), hanging out at a few of their old haunts like the skate park.
He catches up with his mother (Kathy Bates) and when he finds out she is terminally ill their time becomes especially poignant as they play cards at home, drinking and smoking together despite her being on an oxygen tank. Not everyone is pleased to see him though. The brother and sister who lost their grandmother are holding major grudges and are not going to make life easy for him insisting, “We can’t do nothing…I want to let him know he’s not welcome here.” This much they do but perhaps surprisingly the sister becomes close to Marvin and they begin to build a relationship despite their differences.
Written and directed by Franka Potente known for her acting in Run Lola Run and the Bourne series she achieves the small town feel of an arid part of California using some good local locations like the diners, the backyards and the alleyway. The camera shots are quite simply put together that can drift in and out of focus on occasions but with a mix of close up shots and some quick editing, especially for the alley scene, the slightly dirty framing is easy to follow.
Well cast, Jake McLaughlin plays the man child anti-hero who’s straight out of prison probably still wearing the same shiny tracksuit he went in with and bearing the burden of his guilt. Kathy Bates plays the mother with plenty of vim in spite of her condition and is seen sat on the porch with shotgun in hand and collapsing on the porch with equal grace delivering some beautifully droll lines along the way in her languid Tennessee accent, “Prison ain’t supposed to be fun anyway.”
The story comes across incredibly twee considering its dark nature but this is probably as much to do with its likeable cast. Don’t expect any major surprises as the only real surprise is that we don’t fully understand the reasons behind Marvin going into prison and without knowing any of his backstory we are left unsure whether he deserves any kind of redemption at all.
Director: Franka Potente
Stars: Jake McLaughlin, Kathy Bates, Aisling Franciosi
Run time: 1hr 40min