Writer-director Kiel Thorlton’s A Place Called Home follows Levi (Ben Gavin), whose wife is pregnant with their second daughter. Unfortunately, one day upon returning home, Levi finds his wife dead, though the baby, Allie, survives. This devastates Levi, who now must raise 7-old-year Madi (McCarron Smith) and the newborn on his own.
Before he realizes it, Levi is drowning in bills and faces challenges finding someone to care for the kids while he is at work. His best friend, “Uncle” Barrett (Paul Cottman), offers some support but can only do so much. In a bind, Levi borrows money from the unscrupulous Daryl (Sean Ramey). Will Levi be able to pay the money back, or has he put his family in danger?
A Place Called Home might sound like a thriller wherein Daryl puts the screws to Levi. But really, the movie is a drama as viewers watch Levi do his best and still struggle. The core of the story — the heart — is the father’s relationship with Madi, who must navigate her grief, Levi’s grief, being a newly minted sister, and school. The observant screenplay allows the girl to act and react like an actual child. At no point does she feel like some adult’s idea of a child. It is most refreshing.
To that end, McCarron Smith carries a lot of the weight on her shoulders. She proves most capable, delivering a truly excellent performance, especially for one so young. After her dad yells at her for getting into a fight, the way she reacts brilliantly captures the character’s frustrations. Gavin also gives a heartfelt performance. Levi might seem selfish at times, but the actor never lets audiences forget that he’s grieving and in over his head as well. His outbursts, specifically at his in-laws, are not unwarranted if extreme, and Gavin plays them with the right amount of anger and confusion.
“…Levi finds his wife dead, though the baby, Allie, survives.”
The supporting cast is also excellent. As the in-laws, Suzanne Sadler and Wynn Reichert are a lot of fun. In addition, Cottman is surprisingly sweet, while Ramey is sufficiently menacing.
Another positive for A Place Called Home is Jake Hull’s score, which really nails the dramatic tone. The cinematography of the Kentucky terrain, courtesy of Aaron Von Buseck, captures the rustic, simple way of life of the lead character. Also, the way Thorlton uses voice-over is quite clever and effective.
With that being said, the film does have a slight (very slight) tone issue. The whole owing money thing only comes up in a few scenes here and there. As such, the threat is never really felt, despite Ramey giving it his all. That subplot also wraps up rather quickly. Seeing that the thriller angle isn’t really the point, it is understandable, but it does feel like a missed opportunity.
Even still, the final five or so minutes of A Place Called Home are perfect. The minor dips are well worth getting to this conclusion. And that’s on top of all the great stuff that came earlier.
To learn more, visit the official site for A Place Called Home.