Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: 99 Homes

Magazine article The Spectator

Cinema: 99 Homes

Article excerpt

99 Homes

15, Nationwide

99 Homes is an American drama about house repossession. Bummer, you might think, but here is what you don't yet know: films about house repossessions can be electrifying. Or at least this one is. Set in 2008 or thereabouts, against the backdrop of the real-estate bust and ensuing foreclosure crisis, this has much to say about a system that allows the rich to get richer while the poor get shat on (basically), but, above and beyond that, it is also nail-bitingly tense, as gripping as any thriller, and it will totally tear your heart out. In terms of impact, it may even be the Cathy Come Home of our times.

Directed and co-written by Ramin Bahrani (Man Push Cart , Goodbye Solo ), it stars Andrew Garfield and Michael Shannon, who are otherwise Spiderman and General Zod, but not today, as they have better things to do. Today, Garfield is Dennis Nash, a construction worker who lives in suburban Orlando, in the house he grew up in. It's not the world's greatest house -- it is modest; there are spider plants -- but it's always been home. He lives with his own young son and also his widowed mother (Laura Dern) but times are tough, and he's fallen behind with payments to the bank. The court is telling him one thing and two different departments at the bank are saying something else when Rick Carver (Shannon), a white-suited real-estate broker who specialises in foreclosures, arrives at his door to evict him.

Disbelief and bewilderment quickly turn to anger. 'Get off my property, you're trespassing,' he tells Carver and the sheriff who, by law, has to accompany him. 'No, sir,' says the sheriff. 'This property now belongs to the bank. It is you who are trespassing, sir.' (The faux-politeness is strangely terrifying.) Within moments, everything Nash and his family have ever owned has been removed from the house and thrown on to the front lawn. This scene is not a protracted one, just as no scene in this film is a protracted one -- everything happens super fast -- but if it doesn't tear your heart out, you may need to ask yourself: is my heart cemented in?

Nash moves his family to a single room in a motel -- a motel choked with families in the same situation -- but then has reason to see Carver again. This is when it gets properly interesting. Carver, who has become spectacularly rich through selling repossessed properties to investors, offers Nash a job, initially as a handyman. …

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