Ramin Bahrani is one of the best and most consistent of the new generation of American writer-directors who has a clear and precise filmmaking style and a consistent narrative vision of the ‘real’ America. By this is meant that he has a deep understanding of, and empathy with, America’s immigrants and outsiders. He is unique in sustaining what used to be called a committed cinema. His new film, 99 Homes is no exception. Different in tone than his previous excellent film, Goodbye Solo (2008), it is a hard-hitting and well-researched examination of the vagaries, cruelties, exploitations and de-humanisation of the home repossession ‘business’ in the US today.
This piercing and eye-opening film largely eschews sentimentality but rather poses tough moral questions whose ambivalences are left open for audiences to ponder. Bahrani has marshalled a strong cast of better known actors – presumably budgets have risen – while steadfastly maintaining his independence and integrity. The direct cinema approach to filming and the use of very real location shooting positions the narrative and film squarely in the world of docu-drama and faction cinema, and is all the more authoritative for that.
Behind in his mortgage payments, construction worker Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) finds himself and his dependents, son Connor (Noah Lomax) and single mother Lynn Nash (Laura Dern), being unexpectedly and forcefully evicted from their family home by the brutal and cold methods of Rick Carver (Michael Shannon) a property acquisitions and repo man who is one of the few taking full advantage of the market meltdown. Desperate to save the family home and provide a roof over their heads, Nash has few options and must reluctantly and bitterly accept a go-fer job from Carver, which leads him into a dark and shady world of questionable tactics and moral ambiguity.
Extremely well-written (by Bahrani, Amir Naderi and Bahareh Azimi) and directed, what sounds in this brief synopsis like a stock premise is in fact a challenging and not-to-be-missed film that is absolutely on the mark and as timely as a newscast. Ramin Bahrani continues on his successful journey as a purveyor of excellent and challenging films for the thinking audience.
James B. Evans
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