Many times, the movies that impact us most are the ones that hit closest to home.
Sure, we may enjoy the more fantastical and entertaining ones that dazzle our eyes and imaginations, but the movies that stick with us are the ones with characters or a story in which we see ourselves.
It may not always be the cheeriest or the easiest thing to watch, but sometimes it’s essential that we do. Such is the case with the 2014 film 99 Homes, available for free with an Amazon Prime membership.
Directed by Ramin Bahrani, 99 Homes takes place during the 2008 housing crisis and follows Andrew Garfield’s character “Dennis Nash,” an out-of-work handyman who gets evicted from his home by real estate operator “Rick Carver,” played by Michael Shannon.
While initially hating Rick, Dennis eventually works for him out of desperation for work.
Before long, Rick begins to groom Dennis to be a kind of successor to him, and things seem to be looking up. But, as Dennis starts taking on more responsibilities and getting his hands dirty in the shadier aspects of the business, he struggles with the morality of what he’s doing.
First off, Garfield and Shannon are great actors. Garfield gives an incredible performance only to be somehow bettered by Shannon’s. Garfield wears his emotions on his sleeve, especially as his character enters further into a moral grey area, while Shannon keeps his bubbling just below the surface. You can always tell what Dennis is thinking, but can almost never tell what Rick is, which makes his character that much more menacing.
Shannon consistently has delivered these types of standout performances and has come to be known as one of Hollywood’s most impressive character actors.
The film isn’t the easiest to watch, filmed with an unflinching, gritty and raw look that puts the audience front and center to family homes taken away and lives destroyed. Bahrani captures everything with a documentary style, which makes the pit in your stomach grow larger the more you watch. The scene where Dennis’s family gets evicted is gut-wrenching. And, with it coming so early in the film, you know you’re in for a lot worse.
While one can’t be upset at the film for its unsettling sequences, since that’s clearly what they were going for, it still can sometimes feel like a chore to make it through the whole thing. For those looking for some escapist fun from everyday life, you may want to keep looking.
Though 99 Homes isn’t a feel-good movie, it’s one that you’ll be glad to have seen. Few movies can showcase this kind of raw emotion and do it well, but this film is one of them.
The most haunting part of it all is when you realize this is exactly what happened to numerous families not too long ago.
I do recommend blocking out a few hours if you decide to watch it—two for the movie and a couple more to give yourself time to process it all.