Quick Critique: Almost Home

Sneaking out of home to meet a boy, Sarah (Jessica Healy) dies suddenly of a seizure. Her younger sister Lisa (Shannon Hurley) and mother (Judy Donovan) are forced to pick up the pieces after such a devastating and shocking loss. Almost Home is told almost entirely in monologue, where Lisa reminisces about her sister, the little thoughts and details that pop up in her grief, and telling her mother something about that night that is eating her up inside.

There’s not a lot I can really say about Almost Home. Not because it’s mainly a monologue piece that doesn’t even clock in at 10 minutes. Not even because it’s fairly plotless and doesn’t have a lot of twist and turns. One of the things about the short is that it sets a mood and goes forward with it, and it’s best to experience something like this blind. So if you want my recommendation, watch it. Absolutely, if you get the chance, check it out.

Shannon Hurley is engrossing and hits every emotional beat flawlessly. The framing is both intimate and a little jarring, perfectly hitting the tonality. There’s enough cutting away as to not make the proceeding monotonous, and even has this hazy dream-like quality, as if an unwanted patch of memories. Judy Donovan is haunting in the moments she is given, particularly one scene at the fireplace. What I’d rather talk about here is not so much the quality of the filmmaking, but the mood it presents.

Almost Home screenshot

It’s hard to live in the mind of someone who has experienced loss, particularly in an unexpected scenario. The shock, disbelief, but also the innate confusion and strange guilt of not being able to process what you’re feeling in the “appropriate” fashion. All of this is silly-the right way to grieve is however you are coping-but it’s difficult to tell yourself that when you’re in that head space. Mostly all of this is uncinematic. It’s not easy to make that compelling or dramatic.

I don’t wish to pry into writer/director Emmet O’Brien’s personal life, but a lot of this feels very raw. Its stripped down presentation helps get that kind of turmoil across, what goes on in your head when a loved one dies. The stupid thoughts, the second guessing of your own actions, the way that person lingers in your mind, as if you’re trying to find a way to immortalise them. Human beings are not fully equipped to deal with death, and this really evoked a lot of feelings in me about that experience (in a good way!).

almost home poster (2)

Almost Home is resonant, extremely cathartic, appropriately moody and wonderfully acted. I’d recommend it to pretty much anybody who can deal with the heavier subject matter. I’d rather you couldn’t relate to it, and it’s moving either way, but it’s all the more gut-wrenching and powerful if you can.

9/10

As well as filmmaking, writer/director/actor Emmet O’Brien also runs as a three-day horror festival Spook Screen right here in Cork. It will run from Friday 13-Sunday 15 of September. For more information, please check out its Facebook page.

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