Dir: Michael Mayer. US.2004. 93mins.
Can a movie be too short' Broadway theatre directorMichael Mayer and novelist Michael Cunningham have opted for an ultra-concisemovie treatment of Cunningham's celebrated first novel (1990), which traces thefriendship between two boys over 30 years in just 93 minutes. The effect is afilm which feels like it's been cut down from a miniseries - fleeting episodesin the lives of the characters which don't add up to much more than a reminderof how complete the book is.
But while the adaptationfails to sustain a coherent narrative, Mayer exhibits a good deal of style andwarmth in his direction, and his cast is attractive and, with marquee nameColin Farrell in one of the leading roles, marketable. Indeed specialised audiences,especially women and gay men, will be drawn to see A Home At The End Of TheWorld, even if the film is destined to achieve its biggest score as a curioon DVD.
It was never going to be aneasy task to adapt a novel which follows the boys through troubled childhoodsin suburban Cleveland to their twenties in Manhattan of the early 1980s.Cunningham's book addressed the onset of the AIDS epidemic and the creation ofthe new family, a theme which has blossomed in literature and cinemasubsequently.
The picture starts in 1967when young Bobby Morrow (Chalmers) witnesses the accidental death of hischarismatic brother Carlton (Donowho); a few years later, Bobby is a bold andsexy teenager (Smith) who befriends the gawky Jonathan Glover (Allan). The twobecome fast friends and when Bobby's father dies, leaving him without family,he is adopted into the Glover clan especially by Jonathan's mother Alice(Spacek in a brief, memorable supporting performance). Jonathan falls for Bobbyand the two experiment sexually, although it's clear that while Jonathan isgay, Bobby is probably not.
Eight years later in 1982,Bobby (Farrell) is still in Cleveland with Alice and Jonathan's father Ned(Frewer), while Jonathan (Roberts) has moved to New York City and is living withthe eccentric and endearing Clare (Wright Penn). On Ned's advice, Bobby movesto New York and moves in with Jonathan, who is now openly gay, and Clare, whois in love with Jonathan. Slowly the handsome Bobby changes the dynamic of theapartment, and he and Clare embark on a relationship, causing a jealous andresentful Jonathan to move out.
Ned's death brings the threetogether again and Clare's announcement that she is pregnant leads to the threesetting up home in Woodstock, but the trio faces a final blow when Jonathanbegins to realise that he has AIDS.
All three lead charactersare adeptly played, although Farrell stands out with a touching turn as theopen-hearted Bobby whose need for family and home is the strand which keeps thestory going. But their relationship, like the film itself, is strangelytruncated and neither character development nor motivation are given sufficientattention in the script.
The gay element of the novelis downplayed: whether for budgetary or "commercial" reasons, no portrayal ofthe unfettered gay scene at the time is attempted, and, as is customary withgay characters in movies these days, Jonathan is not given any love life tospeak of. For fans of the book and for gay audiences expecting something morehomo-centric, the film will inevitably feel diluted.
Prod cos: Killer Films, John Wells Productions, PlymouthProjects, Hart Sharp Entertainment
US dist: Warner IndependentPictures
Int'l sales: Pandora
Exec prods: John Sloss, MichaelHogan
Prods: Tom Hulce, Christine Vachon,Katie Roumel, Pamela Koffler, John Wells, John N Hart Jr, Jeffrey Sharp
Scr: Michael Cunningham, based onhis novel
Cine: Enrique Chediak
Prod des: Michael Shaw
Ed: Lee Percy, Andrew Marcus
Mus: Duncan Sheik
Main cast: Colin Farrell, DallasRoberts, Robin Wright Penn, Sissy Spacek, Matt Frewer, Erik Smith, HarrisAllan, Andrew Chalmers, Ryan Donowho