A Home Of Our Own

1993, Movie, PG, 103 mins

Review

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Widow Kathy Bates hits the road with her brood for a better life in this well-made and wonderfully acted four-hanky family drama directed by Tony Bill (MY BODYGUARD, FIVE CORNERS).

In the early '60s, following the death of her husband, Frances Lacey (Bates) gets fed up with trying to raise her six kids in Los Angeles after she's fired from her job (for protesting a supervisor's sexual harassment) and discovers that her oldest son Shayne (TERMINATOR 2's Edward Furlong) has taken to petty theft to buy his brothers and sisters candy. Loading her brood into their ancient Plymouth, she simply sets off in a vaguely northeasterly direction, in search of a home of their own. She finally finds it on the outskirts of tiny Hankston, Idaho, in the forlorn skeleton of a house owned by farmer Mr. Munimura (Soon-Teck Oh). A recluse since the death of his wife and only son, who was killed in the Korean War, Munimura--who had been building the house for his son and daughter-in-law--agrees to let Frances have it in exchange for domestic and farm help, provided by herself and her kids.

Adjusting is hard for the clan at first. The kids are mocked at school for their poverty, but Frances refuses charity. Shayne, adamant about returning to L.A. as soon as he's able, begins feeling more at home when he catches the eye of cute classmate Raymi (Tamilisa Wood). Younger brother Murray (Miles Feulner) is nothing less than thunderstruck when he stumbles on a sprawling junkyard, talking the crusty but kindly owner into letting him work there in exchange for neat stuff for the Lacey homestead. Murray's crowning achievement turns to inadvertent tragedy, however. After singlehandedly acquiring and installing the family's first indoor toilet, he sets fire to the family outhouse, embers from which ignite the main house, burning it to the ground. Just as Frances is at the end of her rope, the entire town turns out to help rebuild the house.

A HOME OF OUR OWN's main liabilities as a family film are Frances's occasional outbursts of salty language and the film's forays into adult themes. Beyond that, however, HOME more resembles such TV fare as "The Waltons" and "Little House on the Prairie" than typical big-screen fare, and did badly in theaters.

Despite the minor reservations mentioned above, A HOME OF OUR OWN is nearly perfect family entertainment on the small screen. While upbeat overall, its script, based by executive producer Patrick Duncan on his own life, deals honestly and realistically with day-to-day problems and conflicts of family life. Its moments of poignancy are well-measured and never overstated, and its grittier moments are treated with discretion and restraint.

Director Bill, a seasoned actor, knows how to get the most from his performers. Leading the cast, Bates proves again that the Oscar for her much showier role in MISERY was no fluke. Here, she's terrific, rising above stereotype as the feisty-but-loving mom with a nicely shaded performance emphasizing Frances's flawed humanity. Furlong also does solid, sensitive work as the eldest son. In fact, the entire ensemble is so strong that it becomes a minor frustration that the film doesn't spend more time with all of them. Bill and Duncan have done an expert job of creating a richly textured portrait of family life with their first-rate cast. (Profanity, adult situations.) leave a comment

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