Since the birth of COVID, I've been reflecting on home and shelter, what they mean and how they intertwine. Home is where you live, a place you can decorate, invite people to, host holidays, and find comfort in. After a while, this sort of place becomes part of your identity. To lose a home is to lose a part of yourself. A shelter is a place those less fortunate reside in if they're lucky enough to have it available. Shelters are often very small and don't always even come with all the basic necessities needed to live. For a person who's been through hell and for whatever reason finds him or herself homeless, even the smallest shelters are considered miracles.
For someone having shelter may often mean that they’re living in poverty. I cannot even begin to comprehend the trauma of not having a home or even a shelter, especially in the time of COVID. Yet, more people than not are living on the streets or in projects where they don't have the luxury of social distancing. I've recently rewatched three crucially relevant indies that remind me of my privileges and how rare they are for many people, the first being 99 Homes.
99 Homes is a crisp morality tale that follows Dennis Nash, (Andrew Garfield) a single father in Orlando Florida who starts to lose himself when he begins working for Rick Carver, (Michael Shannon in a role he should've won the Oscar for) the wealthy and corrupt real estate broker who oversaw Nash, his son Conner (Noah Lomax) and mother Lynn (Laura Dern) being wrongfully evicted out of their home.
99 Homes is one of the most complex roles Andrew Garfield has ever taken on. His performance is psychologically transformative. Nash is a man who lives from goodness. He's a very moral man and the emotional trauma of earning more money than ever before by evicting good people is something Rick takes time instructing him to suppress. The first time Nash evicts someone, the portrayal of shame and embarrassment is so real. As time goes on, Nash grows more confident which turns to arrogance until he starts to submerge completely from who he was, affecting his relationships with Conner and Lynn.
The perfection of Michael Shannon’s performance is so incredibly overwhelming, it's blinding. The sad thing about Carver is that his current mindset is not within his nature, life took him in a very bad direction. This is the case with many film characters but Shannon speaks so passionately and with such a raw cutting edge of anger. It's an anger that can only be expressed through the eyes of someone who is deeply hurting inside.
The most pivotal scene in the film is when Carver gives a conflicted Nash a brutally harsh monologue in which he reveals he's only been evicting people for three years. Prior, he was just a regular real estate agent. He'd grown up on different construction sites with his father, a roofer who became addicted to painkillers after falling off a roof one day and the insurance company dropping him. Carver's whole life has been one giant eviction and he's dead set on escaping the same fate as his father.
“America doesn't bail out the losers. America was built by bailing out winners. By rigging a nation, of the winners, for the winners, by the winners. Do you go to church Nash? Do you go to church? Only one in a hundred’s gonna get on that ark son. Every other poor soul’s gonna drown. I'm not gonna drown.”
My spine completely froze when I heard Shannon deliver these lines so boldly. I suddenly felt shaky and chilly. The fury of our current political climate instantly washed over me and it felt like a deadly tsunami was dragging me under. That's the power of a truly flawless performance when your body physically reacts to it.
99 Homes is a film that would do very well for itself being released in 2020 but it also did very well when it came out in 2015. I recommend it to everyone because that's just how phenomenal it is. 99 Homes is a blunt and unapologetic film that will tackle you to the ground and cling to you relentlessly as you try to get up. Hopefully, by the time you completely feel like yourself again, our world will be in a better place, whatever that can possibly be.