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|Index||13 reviews in total|
Written by controversial Welsh theatre director Ed Thomas "House of America" is a rather complex and artistic film with some interesting points to make about Welsh cultural identity. Set in a remote rural Welsh town the film tells the story of a rather warped family obsessed with the all things American. The characters are fed up with their boring, mundane existence in their remote South Wales community and fantasise about leaving for America to live with their father who supposedly left Wales to chase his dreams in the land of opportunity. However not all is as it seems and the truth is all too condemning for those who live in a dream like bubble of consciousness constructed from their fantasies of American literature. The horror of reality is too difficult to accept for the condemned hero of the film Sid and his Sister Gwenny who take on the personas of the American writer Jack Kerouac and his relationship with Joyce Johnson. The results are catastrophicly destructive as the truth of their reality slowly emerges to haunt them, and their disillusioned lives begin to fall apart. Ed Thomas has some interesting if not clichéd points to make about how we are all rapped up in the media culture of America and how Wales has no real cultural identity of its own. The usual Welsh stereotypes are dismissed as being artificially constructed and ultimately fake, there are no happy mining communities, no sheep no daffodils or rolling green hills in this film, just an empty void which is filled by borrowing off American culture which is ultimately all lies. An artistic, cleverly constructed film well worth watching if you can stand its dark and depressing nature. -Stuart Hall
This is bottom of the barrel stuff which makes me ashamed to be Welsh. It can't quite make its mind up where it wants to go but in the end all roads lead to abysmal. It centres on a Welsh family of a mother, a daughter and 2 sons who's father disappeared many years ago. The mother (Sian Phillips) is now a tad senile, one son is trying hard to stick to the tracks while his brother and sister are living in an American fantasy world in which they do a lot more than be brotherly and sisterly if you know what I mean!, It's junk like this which pushes the British film industry back 10 years just when you thought it was emerging again.
Yes, it does pander to a lot of stereotypes ever present in British
films. Drunks, drugs, people going bonkers and a grim landscape. But,
that doesn't mean it isn't a good film! It has some funny moments, and
features brilliant performances from Matthew Rhys and Sian Phillips
(who looks like a movie star from the 50s, and retains the glamour even
in the height of madness). And unfortunately, like most stereotypes, it
has emerged from an element of truth.
I don't think anyone would be that shallow and stupid to look at this film, and think that is how everyone in the Valleys lives any more than people watch 'Trainspotting' and think everyone in Scotland shoots up all the times. The sad matter is these films do reflect reality for SOME people, and frankly I do not care if it reflects badly on Wales because these stories should be told. What happens to Sid is happening more and more in my area and is not being addressed.
Being a Neath girl, I may be biased because it is not often you get to see my area on screen, especially Banwen. But if anyone was to ask me where I grew up, what its like, I'd show them the film because it rings true, even if it is a huge exaggeration (hence, why it is called fiction). There is a lot of unemployment, there are a lot of people do drink too much, the weather is that bad most of the time but its mostly the humour, the way the people in the film connect. People do take the mick out of each other, and wind each other up, and cannot talk about their problems, and find things to laugh at in their bleakest moment.
If you want Shakespeare, watch Hamlet. If you want Working Class Britain, watch this.
The squalid life of a dysfunctional family, minus a father who ran away, it is believed, to America, who can only cope with the reality of the depressing gloom of a Welsh mining district by escaping from it by immersing themselves in what they think is American culture. This seems to consist of worshiping icons such as literary giant Jack Kerouak, film stars such as Gary Cooper and various myths that centre round Detriot, "the wild west," and other notions conceived and believed by many non-Americans and too many more Americans. As their obsession for things American grows it does reach a point where reality can no longer be blocked. The high quality of acting portraying the grey lives of the people set where the grey landscape meets the grey skies is first rate. Watch it and appreciate seeing and feeling the sunshine, again.
This was the film that should have really propelled Steven Mackintosh into
the big time (although his earlier work on TV in The Buddha of Suburbia
should have done so too). In 'House of America', as Kerouac-obsessed Sid,
he is absolutely superb.
The rest of the film is hit and miss, although I did like it. Anything with Siân Phillips is usually worth watching and as the on-the-edge Mam doesn't disappoint. As the other kids in the family Matthew Rhys impresses as Boyo, while Lisa Palfrey tackles a difficult role as Gwenny, trapped in her own fantasies.
Excellent 1990s soundtrack too which adds to the mood. It is a downbeat and powerful film which just stops short of where it could go, but overall a good effort.
Set in a mining town in the South Wales valleys, House of American tracks
the lives of four people - Sid, Gwenny, Boyo and their mother.
Sadly, as with most small, indie films, this one didn't make it at the box office. And, like alot of other indie films, it deserved to. As a psychological study it is excellent - exploring repression and the power of memory, as well as the lengths a truly psychotic person will go to in order to bury the past.
But the real strength of this film was that it was frighteningly realistic. Granted, not many Welsh miners go insane, but they did encounter the poverty and "American dream" syndrome that gives this film its name.
When i was walking through HMV, i noticed this film in the budget section. After reading the back cover for details, i decided to buy it on the off chance that i would really enjoy it.
Am I glad i bought it! I loved 'House of America' from beginning to end. It is entertaining enough to watch purely at face value, but with a thick enough plot to keep everyone interested until the credits roll. I would recommend this to anyone, but especially those wanting something a little different.
Though the bleakness of the film is a bit on the depressing side it is nevertheless brilliantly acted and is very convincing in its depiction of just how grim life in the valleys could be. Not a good film to see unless you enjoy schadenfreude.
took me a while to get into this film, but it won me in the end. A very bleak insight into the lives of a welsh family trying to break free from their downbeat humdrum lifestyle. It focuses mainly on two brothers and a sister(sid, boyo, and gwenny) who are desperate to join their father in America and find some excitement. But why doesn't he reply to Gwenny's letters..... There is a tense atmosphere all the way through, and particularly the moments of incestuous lust between sid and his sister(kind of kurt cobain and juliette lewis lookalikes), adds to the movies feel of isolation and desperation. And whilst all this is going on, there is the slightly un-hinged mother, what secret does she hide? I can recommend this movie, if you can find it, because behind the bleakness is a well acted and beautifully photographed study of modern day mis-fits.
I was very impressed by this movie. Although a lot of what happens is unpleasant for the characters, I found it strangely uplifting. According to the introduction at the Sydney film festival the writer was trying to make a cry for help about people in Wales taking on others culture and it destroying them. I don't think the movie achieved this, instead becoming an interesting psychological story of one family, done in a fast paced, exciting way. I wish I could get it on video in Australia.
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