I have had the pleasure of reviewing better films than Home Room; and I’ve certainly suffered through worse. But I am not sure I’ve reviewed a more important film. I’ve been a public high school teacher for over 8 years. Ask any educator and you’ll find that Columbine changed things for everyone, so I wasn’t sure how I would find this study of that kind of violence. The subject is handled with extreme care in Home Room. In a wise decision, the shooting occurs to a black screen. We don’t really pick up the story until after the event.
The film has two basic themes. The most obvious is the budding relationship between two teenage girls who are dramatically unalike but forced together to deal with their tragedy. The second theme is blame. Our society seems to possess a powerful need to blame someone when disaster strikes. We don’t deal well when evil has no recognizable face. This film examines that theme like no other I’ve seen before. The acting is incredibly on target. Victor Garber is excellent as the detective who is haunted by the tasks before him. Busy Phillips and Erika Christiansen nail the characters of Alicia and Deeana, our two troubled teens.
In the aftermath of a school shooting, Detective Van Saant (Garber) looks for someone to blame since the shooter was killed by the SWAT team. Two girls: one injured and in the hospital (Christiansen), the other an Goth outcast who might have known the shooting was going to happen come together in an attempt to make sense of their battered lives.
The audio is a very simple and straightforward Dolby Digital 2.0 track. This film is entirely about the dialogue, so nothing more is necessary. The score is extremely subtle and used sparingly. There really are no action scenes apart from the initial couple of minutes of film.
Home Room comes complete with two transfers of the film on the DVD. A full frame version is available, but I chose to watch and talk about the original theatrical aspect ratio 1.85:1 transfer. This is quite an impressive image. There are no specks or artifacts evident at any time. There is some considerable grain on darker scenes, but this should not be considered a transfer flaw. Darks are quite solid. Colors are near reference. There isn’t a lot of creative use of colors or hues in this film, as a more subtle realistic effect was the obvious intent.
Only a small featurette is included. This is a nice feature. It includes interviews with the cast and Paul F. Ryan who pretty much wrote, directed, and produced this independent film. The most memorable part of this 7 minute presentation deals with a screening the cast and crew had at Columbine. A trailer is also provided.
I was very disappointed that there was no commentary. This film is intended to convey so much meaning it seems odd that at least Ryan didn’t feel compelled to discuss the images further. I’m sure disc space was a problem, but I could do without the full frame option.
Menus are very static and vanilla as perhaps they should be.
Home Room is not the kind of film I might ordinarily watch. I can’t say that I enjoyed the film at all, but I was glad to have seen it. I don’t believe this is the kind of film you will want to watch more than once, so a rental is probably your best bet. This is the kind of film that scares the modern American family because it warrants discussion afterwards. Unfortunately there is far too much parent apathy, as the film clearly represents. Teens and parents might actually feel the need to talk to each other after seeing this film. That alone might make it worth the rent. It is unfortunate that perhaps “A school is no place for a child anymore”.