“Boredom… I feel like killing someone just to feel alive”. Director Fien Troch doesn’t voice this sentiment of youth boredom through dialogue or voice-over, but through a Facebook post by 17-year-old Sammy (Loïc Bellemans). Flemish cinema has caught up with the rest of the world in Home. No murder mystery, not another family drama, but a contemporary and immersive peek inside the teenage world. The teens in Home aren’t just constantly diddling on their smartphones to accentuate their disinterest like they are in every other movie. Troch flips the camera and shows the footage shot by the teens next to her professional work. This immersive feeling is also heightened by the tendency of the camera to follow the actors from behind so the audience witnesses their lives as if looking over their shoulders.
We follow Sammy as his bored world is interrupted by the arrival of his nephew Kevin (Sebastian Van Dun) who just got out of juvy. Unable to go home, Kevin’s mother sends him to live with his aunt where he meets his spoiled nephew and his group of friends. He especially connects with John (Mistral Guidotti) who lacks a home as well because of his abusive mother. Troch has always been interested in family dramas. Following three films about torn up families as experienced by young children – ‘Someone Else’s Happiness’ (2005), ‘Unspoken’ (2008) and ‘Kid’ (2012) – she was ready to move on to the next stage of growth: adolescence.
This time, Troch took another approach to her process of filmmaking. Whereas she used to start working from the visual style, Home is created around the characters. When John goes to a parent-teacher evening with his mom, the camera blurs out the on-going dialogue of the adults and focuses on the boy’s hand scratching the side of the teacher’s desk instead. While his mother keeps blabbing on to the teacher about his inaptitude to obey and keep up his grades, we’re not hearing her but figuring out what is going on in John’s head. These details in the movements of the characters run through the entire film and visually extend the inside turmoil of the teenagers.
The focus on the inner emotions creates an unfortunate side-effect. By zooming in on the teens, both parts of the generational saga at times become flat and unrealistic. Although some of the experiences are relatable for both generations – on the one hand the mindless authority of the teacher screaming to the teenager that “you can’t just stand in the hallway” and on the other hand the mindless arrogance of a spoiled youth who tells his mother “he’ll call her when she has to pick him up” – Troch doesn’t elaborate on the motivations of either party. To fill in the blanks yourself can be an engaging experience but when every action of the teens seems to be motivated by boredom, we just might get bored ourselves.