Review: House of D

Written and directed by David Duchovny, by working through problems stemming from his past, Tom Warshaw (Duchovny), an American artist living in Paris, begins to discover who he really is, and returns to his home to reconcile with his family and friends. Starring: Anton Yelchin, Robin Williams, Téa Leoni, Erykah Badu, Frank Langella, Zelda Williams and Olga Sosnovska.

Watching the immensely bright sparks that were Anton Yelchin and Robin Williams onscreen together is a bittersweet joy, they were energetic, charismatic and immensely lovable actors that were lost too soon but we should be thanful that they got a chance to work together. Yelchin plays young Tommy to Duchovny’s older Tom, living in New York with his depressed mother and spending most of his time with his best friend Pappass (Williams), a mentally disabled man in his 40’s who works as the janitor at Tommy’s school. The story explains how Tom came to leave New York for Paris and hasn’t returned in 30-years, exploring his relationship with his mom, unlikely friendships and schoolboy crushes.

Yelchin and Williams work together to portray a pure kind of friendship, caring, generous and lively, Tommy doesn’t treat Pappass differently because of his disability, they acknowledge it but never let it get in the way of their fun. It is a slight adjustment at first to see Williams portraying that type of disability, it’s a little awkward or even uncomfortable but slowly you come to realise that that’s a strength not a weakness, it feels that way because that’s what he was trying to achieve and it eases you into it, to the point where you no longer even notice it. One of the difficult things about watching any performance from Yelchin in 2020 is just how much potential and years of talented acting were lost, he’s absolutely brilliant in this role, he has a wonderful, impressive presence considering he was only thirteen years old at the time. There are bursts of emotion that come with this role for Yelchin but he handles them seamlessly, it’s a terrific thing to watch. However, they’re not the only highlights here, Erykah Badu was a brilliant inclusion; her character is completely unexpected but guides Tommy through his struggles in a selfless and generous manner. Most of the time that her character is on screen she’s simply called ‘lady’ and half of her appearance is her arm leaning out of a barred window and yet she gives an utterly memorable and heart-warming performance. Téa Leoni also gives a very understated but emotionally wrought performance as Tommy’s mother, she doesn’t get a huge amount of time or variety in her scenes but she more than achieves what the role asks of her.

Duchovny’s direction is fairly as expected but there are notes of creativity through Tom’s drawings coming to life and it would have been great to see them more consistently blended into the film’s style to give it a more unique or individualistic edge. There are a few interesting sparks and shot choices but it does stay mostly within a very familiar realm, which isn’t necessarily negative, it’s perfectly enjoyable, it would have simply pushed the film to another level to see some ingenuity in its direction. The writing however is quite unusual, it’s touching, funny and a little bit clever, it achieves quite a lot within its relatively short 97-minutes, you could see the possibility of many other directors making this emotional journey film over 2-hours long but thankfully he resisted that. The story has a great progression, it’s not fast paced but there’s no overly slow burn, it keeps moving and expands as time goes on to continually reveal the story until you can see the whole picture. There’s also the choice made to not end on one shot that reveals everything coming full circle but to actually fully explore the story’s resolution, it’s a nice change to see a director just give the audience what they want, you could even perhaps say it gives more than was necessary. However, it’s a sweet and satisfying way to wrap up its story and barely leaves a single aspect up to your imagination, it nicely rounds out the plot.

House of D is a tale of unlikely friendships, life’s capability for cruelty, the ageless quality to relationships forged in childhood and how choices you regret can follow you around for decades. Anton Yelchin and Robin Williams are a beautiful pairing, they create a wonderful friendship, that’s really enjoyable to watch, it does have an interesting story running throughout but even if it didn’t, it would be worth watching just for those two. Badu and Leoni also make for great support to the leads and both characters have a lot to add to the emotions of the story. The writing is surprising and touching and it resolves itself in a way that it would be hard for anyone not to be satisfied with it. It’s not perfect and it’s not going to knock your socks off but it’s incredibly sweet, sentimental and most of all, it’s genuinely entertaining, so don’t let it hide away in the corners of the Prime library, give it a chance and it will likely surprise you.

Verdict: ✯✯✯✯

Available now on Amazon Prime Video

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