film review

Review | 99 Homes – 2014

Dennis Nash is a single father who has just lost his job in construction. The bills are piling up and it won’t be long before he is put out of his home because of arrears on the mortgage, along with his son and mother. Determined to regain his childhood home, he tries to find a job. Because of the economic crisis and his need for money, Dennis is however forced to work for Rick Carver, the same greedy real estate agent who has thrown him and many others out of their homes. The money is flowing in again, but feelings of guilt makes Dennis drown.

After The Big Short, which focuses on the banking crisis, 99 Homes shows the effect of the economic crisis for ordinary people. In particular those who lost their jobs because of the crisis, resulting in eviction. The film – based on a true story – is directed by Ramin Bahrani, who write the script together with Amir Naderi. The leading roles are for Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield, who grew his beard for the film. Shannon plays the role of real estate agent Rick Carver, who is the one who puts homeowners out of their house once they can no longer pay their mortgages. Who, what and why doesn’t matter to Carver, as long as he gets his money and can add add a new house to his collection. Garfield plays the role of Dennis Nash, the single father who is put out of his house by Carver. Nash, however, desperately wants his home back and makes a questionable choice: he starts working for Carver and thus throw people out of their homes as well.

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This change is so big, it’s not the question if, but when Nash his conscious takes over. The times when Carver and Nash tell the house owners they have to leave their home, are very strong. It’s sometime’s even heartbroken. It gives insight in the ruthlessness of those involved and makes you think about the matter. How can some people be so greedy at the expense of the less fortunate ones. People like Carver are practically a group of criminals. It’s obvious Nash has some difficulties with this new job. He had to leave his house as well, so he knows exactly how they house owners feel. However, his wish to get money and his house back is greater than his compassion with the other victims. In contrast to Garfield’s character, Michael Shannon’s Carver is more one-dimensional. Carver doesn’t care who he has to put out his home and is able to turn off his emotions. Though there is one moment he opens up  to Nash which makes you learn his character better. However, once you find out what Carver is up to, you can go only one way with your feelings towards him.

Laura Dern plays Nash’s concerned mother: Lynn, who has a few intense moments, but she’s too little involved in the story. Lynn tries to take care for her son and grandson, but takes little effort to find a job for herself. Noah Lomax plays the eight-year-old son Connor, who has a few very strong moments. Just like with the other supporting roles, this intense moment is when he hears his house is no longer his. Connor can’t enter his room anymore and is forced to leave his friends and school. One other moment you’ll remember is when the older man, who has no relatives to go to nor does he know his neighbours, is told he has to leave his house. Truly heartbreaking. When there’s finally one family who has a plan and a lawyer to advice them, things are being done to get in their way and smash their hopes.

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Besides the acting skills, the camera works is excellent as well. Sometimes it feels like you’re standing next to the actors. On both the side of the victims – the personal drama – and the business side. There’s one scene which shows how big Dennis Nash’ drama is, when it looks like he’s drowning, literally and figuratively. This shot is very well put together and you immediately understand what the creators wanted to tell. However, you never really feel sad for Dennis Nash, besides one of the first scenes. What happens after, is Dennis’ own choice, so therefore I didn’t have a sense of sympathy for that character. The emotions are more on the side of the other victims. Their anger is understandable very well, think of the scene at the motel. The film ends rather vague – what happens to who is unclear – and definitely deserved a better ending

99 homes is the second film of 2016 in the Netherlands, which gives a look at the economic crisis. The interesting story, strong performances from both Michael Shannon, Andrew Garfield and various supporting roles, make this film very successful. However, you have less compassion for Garfield’s character than you would have thought thought beforehand. Also, because of the camerawork it sometimes feels like you are amongst the characters and their dramas, which gives  the film extra dimension. The film is two years old, but fortunately 99 homes can finally be seen in Dutch cinemas.

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