I reviewed D. Erik Park’s short film “Return to the Garden” (2015) for the December issue of Rogue Cinema http://www.roguecinema.com/return-to-the-garden-2015-by-paul-busetti.html. That film, while lyrical and technically impressive, contained some ham-fisted Christian overtones that dragged down what could have been a strong piece about grief. For his follow-up, “A Homecoming”, he draws from the parable of the prodigal son (Park uses Rembrandt’s classic depiction over the credits). The oft told tale from Luke’s gospel about a son who demands his inheritance from his father early, only to squander it and return home to find forgiveness.
“A Homecoming” is focused on a man’s visit to his dying father. However, don’t confuse this was the staggering, monumental 3rd act of P.T. Anderson’s “Magnolia”, where decades of anger are overwhelmed by the wave of fear that comes with losing a parent. Running 3 minutes and taking place in a single location, “A Homecoming” doesn’t have the time or space to be much of anything. Unlike some chamber pieces, it neither leans on writing or visual storytelling. There are 4 lines of dialogue and the camerawork is efficient but straightforward.
Park’s film suffers for lack of nuance. I apologize if Park just suffered though a loss, but there was nothing in this to show specific insight into what it feels like. This is a vague, formless exercise. We know the son is an asshole because he sends a text before speaking to his dying father (also he wears a thumb ring). We know the father is dying because he’s lying in a bed. The production design doesn’t feel precise either. The one location, the father’s bedroom, doesn’t feel like it has any history. While I was dubious of the motives behind “Return to the Garden”, I recognized the craftsmanship involved. It’s unfortunate to see that “A Homecoming” isn’t a step forward.
As a lapsed Catholic, I always found the second brother in the parable of the prodigal son to be the more interesting point of view. He who never wavered and was patient resented his brother and was angry at the father for forgiving him. It’s that added dimension that gives the story relevance and a real human point of view. “A Homecoming” could have benefited from this added perspective.