The Hours screenwriter Michael Cunningham returns to familiar territory with this drama about the complexities of modern relationships.
1970's Ohio: after the deaths of his main family members in quick succession, teenager Bobby goes to live with his friend Jonathan. The two are inseparable, smoking pot and listening to music together and eventually exploring their sexuality with each other. Sunny and philosophical, Bobby is unfazed by these experiences, but Jonathan finds the closeness increasingly claustrophobic and moves to New York at the end of high school to assert his individuality.
As a gentle giant, aged 24, Bobby (Colin Farrell) finally flies the nest to be reunited with Jonathan (Dallas Roberts), who's now openly gay and sharing an artsy East Village apartment with new-bohemian hat designer Clare (Robin Wright Penn), who sports a different hairstyle in every scene. The flat share turns into an unstable love triangle and old issues between the boys resurface, as Jonathan begins to feel Bobby is yet again taking over his life.
Meanwhile, Clare's expecting Bobby's child and the differences are put aside for a while when the three shack up together in an idyllic rural cottage to try and make a go of things as an unconventional triangular family. The perfect alternative lifestyle they're looking for proves elusive. As Clare observes, "Maybe I'm just not that different. Maybe it's just my hair".
Cunningham's characters are credible and beguiling, and skilfully rendered by the cast. The young Bobby (Erik Smith) is radiant with innocence and optimism when he coaxes Jonathan's mum (Sissy Spacek) to try her first joint and then embraces her in a slow dance.
Images of Farrell as a buff action hero are dispelled with this convincing and excellent performance of a man-child. In fact, both the leads offer an engaging take on male vulnerability, giving us two dreamers to contrast with the more realistic and grounded Clare.
The thing that jars is an over-reliance on the nostalgic, retro feel, which director Michael Mayer pulls off stylishly, but to the neglect of the storyline. The problems the characters face aren't explored in any depth; the resolutions offered are facile and there are too many questions left unanswered.
Entertaining and subtle in parts, A Home At The End Of The World promises more than it can deliver.