Jack Goes Home Movie Review
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by: Jerry Smith
Jack (Rory Culkin) is a dry, sarcastic and brutally honest young man who is soon becoming a father. A character with a razor-sharp with about him, Jack tells it like it is and does so without ever venturing into that area of Diablo Cody-like characters who are smarter in their heads than they are to us. We instantly like Jack, so when he gets a phone call saying his mother and father were in a car wreck and his father was not only killed but decapitated, we wonder why Jack has a coldness and very clinical outlook on something that should affect him in a very big way. Like the title of the film says, Jack goes home, to attend his father’s funeral, make sure his mother (Lin Shaye in easily one her best performances) is okay and spend time with his childhood best friend Shanda. Almost immediately after arriving, we see that the relationship between Jack and his mother Teresa is an odd one. There’s a fracture there and when Jack attempts to console Teresa, she becomes viciously cruel, almost abusive about how she shouldn’t be told how to mourn.
Where the film could have easily played with just that fractured relationship for the whole running time and still have been great, JACK GOES HOME then gives us small glimpses into why Jack is the way he is and why his mother is so cruel and cold to him. Jack begins to see things and eventually hears things in the family home’s attic. Finding a tape which has his late father telling him that no matter what, he always loved him, we begin to sense that things were far from alright growing up for Jack and we’re thrust into a mystery of what everything means for Jack. His young gay neighbor makes advances on Jack and it comes off somewhat predatory in nature, something that feels off, not because of the man’s sexuality but because it just seems like there’s something more to it. We’re given a glimpse into Jack’s ways of coping with his father’s death, with drugs, conversations with Shanda and his quest to figure out what the sound in the attic is.
As each piece of the puzzle falls into place, it becomes obvious that Dekker not only wrote and directed a great mystery of a film but that every small clue we’ve been offered throughout the film has all been for specific reasons: suppression. Is Jack going through a life-changing series of events or is a horrible childhood coming back into his head, following the death of his father?
Without giving spoilers away, JACK GOES HOME isn’t about monsters or killers or physical antagonists like that, but more about the demons inside of us that victims of abuse try to suppress and hide in an attempt to move on or cope with horrific things that we’ve all dealt with. As a victim of physical and sexual abuse as a child, the film really hit home for me. When I found out I was going to be a father in the early 2000’s, I remember having a pretty gnarly panic attack, one which recalled a childhood that I was afraid my soon to be born child would possibly face, due to this awful world we live in. The important events in our lives lead to these repressed memories and happenings re-appearing and JACK GOES HOME is a perfect example of just that. We’re asked by Dekker to go on a journey with Jack, into discovering, along with the character himself, what led to the way he is, his relationships and what comes from the past that was so traumatic, that is can potentially harm yourself and others around you.
It’s important that we have films like JGH, films which aren’t pretty and wrapped in neat little bows, but ones which force us to face the truth that things are sometimes not only NOT alright, but are, to put it bluntly: quite fucked up. It’s important because, like Jack, we are screwed up as well. We all are. We pay to talk to strangers about what demons eat at us and we get into relationships with the hope that our partners won’t bail when they see just how screwed up we are. True cinema is not only about a sense of wonderment but also about realism and putting things under a microscope, something that Dekker is so brilliantly able to do with this directorial debut. His ability to craft a genre mystery with very deep meanings and a courage to tell a story that refuses to hold any punches. JACK GOES HOME shows us all that it’s okay to confront your demons, because though the results might be scary as hell and that we might find something buried deep within us that we might have wanted to stay buried, we can only confront and defeat these demons if we find the courage to address them. JACK GOES HOME isn’t just a good movie, it’s an important one for anyone who has dealt with abuse and a crucial one that will help survivors feel a kinship to an expertly crafted look at PTSD and repression.
JACK GOES HOME AND DEALING WITH PTSD IN FILM
Films are made to entertain us and at their best, make us feel something inside that will lead to feelings of happiness, adventure and sometimes, sadness and despair. While the former two are what most theater/filmgoers prefer, there is something incredibly powerful about the latter two, films which force you to either live vicariously through the unfortunate or tragic story of a character or even more profoundly, cause you to look inside of yourself and tackle skeletons that wouldn’t typically be addressed without paying some heavy therapy bills (trust me, I know this). Is it a good thing to drown yourself in somber and sad films on a daily basis? For some, no. For this writer, though, there isn’t a single thing I love more than being able to watch a film and have It feel so close to me that it gives off the feeling that there was a cosmic explosion, one which resulted in a film made just for me. The film I'll be writing about in this piece deals with subjects such as abuse and PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) and is a film that, in my opinion, is crucial viewing for anyone who has ever felt lost, hopeless, confused about life and sometimes, ready to let go of it. So, DCP demons, let’s do some exorcising (yes, exorcising) with JACK GOES HOME.
JACK GOES HOME (Dir. Thomas Dekker)
Released in 2016, writer/actor Thomas Dekker took a step behind the camera to tackle his directorial debut, JACK GOES HOME. While it’s quite interesting when actors do this, due to it either not working out so well (Personally, I LOVED Ryan Gosling’s LOST RIVER, but a lot of audience members downright loathed that film) or working even better than their acting (Ben Affleck is a good actor but good lord does he have some insanely talented directing chops), I’m always curious what stories actors I admire are ready to tell. A lot of actors turned directors tackle adaptions of popular books and that’s fine and dandy, but in the case of JACK GOES HOME, Dekker opted to tell a very personal and deeply moving original story, one that I feel is a very necessary one, in a time where abuse, whether it be physical or sexual, is common among children and even adults. While the 1950’s and ‘60s gave children of abuse the “we don’t talk about it” eras, in 2016 and now leading into 2017, we live in a time where we CAN talk about things and though said topics might make some uncomfortable, it’s important to address, leading to a form of therapy and help that us products of the wrath of others end victoriously successful for seeking out and initiating a truthful line of dialogue.