Film Review | 99 Homes
Michael Shannon and Andrew Garfield make for an unlikely yet compelling duo in Ramin Bahrani’s 99 Homes, a powerful two-hander of a thriller that loses none of its impact despite its heavy-handed nature.
After a tone-setting tracking shot which features the body of an evictee who shot himself during the course of a foreclosure we meet Dennis Nash (Garfield, sans Spidey spandex for the first time since 2010), a construction worker whose trade has been hit hard by the financial crisis. With bills mounting up and no money to pay them with, it’s not long before ruthless real-estate broker Rick Carver (Shannon) is knocking at Nash’s door and evicting him, his Mother (Laura Dern) and his young son (Noah Lomax) out of their home. Desperate to get his family out of their now squalid accommodations, Nash reluctantly accepts an offer to work for the very man who evicted him in the first place.
Bahrani’s thriller primarily concerns itself with Nash’s quandary, as the character continually asks himself and the audience what decisions are acceptable when it comes to providing for your family. Nash’s own gut-wrenchingly brutal eviction is soon followed by more scenes of families getting evicted from their homes as Nash turns from evictee to evictor. Up in the Air, which dealt with people being unceremoniously fired from their jobs, is positively timid in comparison.
That we are still rooting for Nash even as his soul gets slowly chipped away is both a testament to the excellent writing and Garfield’s impressively naturalistic performance, which garners a lot of our much needed empathy. “Is it worth it?” Nash semi-rhetorically asks Carver at one point, and Garfield is wholly convincing as a man constantly fighting an internal battle with his morals. Shannon arguably has the more challenging task in depicting the cold yet calculating realtor but he is more than up to task, his persuasive charisma making it easy to understand why Nash would fall into a Faustian pact with Carver. The rest of the ensemble apply themselves well, with the underused Dern and Lomax adding heart to the Nash’s upended family life.
Gripping, immensely affecting, and anchored by blistering performances from its two leads, 99 Homes is a tough watch for all the right reasons. Highly recommended.