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Lives of quiet desperation are sensitively depicted in Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca’s This is Where We Live, about the friendship that forms between a young man suffering from cerebral palsy and the laconic handyman who becomes his caregiver. Foregoing cheap sentiment and melodrama with an approach that is as dry as its Texas plains setting, the film honestly earns its emotional impact.
Menchaca, who also wrote the screenplay, plays the central role of Noah, an unemployed handyman who becomes involved with the Sutton family when he’s hired to build a wheelchair ramp for their house. The clan has more than their share of troubles: matriarch Diane (C.K. McFarland), who suffers from dangerous high blood pressure, struggles to care for both her cerebral palsy-afflicted son August (Tobias Segal) and her dementia-addled husband Bob (Ron Hayden). Making a meager living stocking shelves at a grocery store, she gets little support from daughter Lainey (Frankie Shaw), who mostly sits around moping.
So when she sees Noah acting solicitously towards August she impulsively asks him if he’d like to earn a few extra bucks spending time with him while she’s at work. Noah agrees, and soon displays a tender, affectionate rapport with the severely disabled young man who’s unable to communicate verbally or bathe and go to the bathroom himself.
As their relationship progresses, it has ripple effects throughout the family. Lainey slowly begins to drop her defenses even as Diane, while grateful for the newfound support, finds herself quietly resenting her diminished role in her son’s life. Meanwhile, Noah, a hard drinker with anger issues, quietly begins reckoning with his own inner demons.
The film features many beautifully observed quiet scenes, such as when Diane, in bed with her husband, rejoices when she sees that he’s in one of his totally lucid moments.
Beautifully acted by the largely unknown cast, This is Where We Live is as reticent as its characters, its emotions emerging as much from what’s unsaid as expressed. Its admirably understated approach infuses what could have been an all too predictable, feel good drama with an intriguing complexity.
Opens Nov. 22 (Beach Hill Films)
Production: Bluff City
Cast: Ron Hayden, CK McFarland, Marc Menchaca, Tobias Segal, Frankie Shaw, Barry Corbin
Directors: Josh Barrett, Marc Menchaca
Screenwriter: Marc Menchaca
Producer: Benjamin Fuqua
Executive producers: Alexa L. Fogel, Brendan Mason
Director of photography: Ryan Booth
Editors: Scott Brignac, Filip K. Kasperaszek
Production designer: Jen Barchaca
Costume designer: Sarah Ellison Lewis
Composers: Brian Elmquist, Brian Murphy, Kanene Pipkin
Not rated, 92 min.
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