Austin Film Festival Film Review: Homestate

Endearing local feature pops with authenticity and nuance

Such an entrancing surfeit of warmth and homegrown values is contained within the Austin-set Homestate. Thanks to a synchronized quartet of stellar local actors, this brief, lovely drama from writers Blaise Miller and David Hickey (who also directed) defies expectations of quality for films of such minute scope.

This is as far from pretentious as independent movies get, and the filmmakers are wise not to try and reinvent the wheel with a high-concept story or bold aesthetics. It’s all quite typical, actually: A young man, Josh (played by Miller), shows up at his artist-sister’s house unannounced, disrupting her suburban Texas life with eccentric daughter Pearl (Grace Love) and a plateaued marriage to home contractor Harvey (Hickey). But when Josh, who struggles with drugs and real-world responsibilities, begins to clean up his act and become a caregiver for Pearl, he finds himself Oedipally bullied by her untrusting father.

Familiar themes, to be sure – so how is it that the characters are so memorably portrayed and the payoff so legitimate? Most important to this film are Love, Miller, the sympathetically nasty Hickey, and Shaneye Ferrell as the painter Crystal, all of whom are uniformly superb. Love plays an unfortunately stereotypical character: a quirk-ridden, precociously smart child who makes meaningful drawings of her uncle and represents his ultimate salvation. Yet in her scenes with Miller, who perfectly fits the bill of a sloppy Texan millennial (the decisively dominant character trope at this year’s Austin Film Festival), Love anchors Homestate’s redemption narrative so honestly that we wish Josh the utmost success.

Then there is the unassuming script, which is flush with unexpected intimacies and nuances. As Harvey, Hickey plays a jealous and secretive man whose new mailbox-building business is causing him stress. But I challenge you to name another recent film in which a mean character unironically attends a men’s church group – with no representations of alcoholism or spousal abuse in sight. That same, rare attention to detail distinguishes Hickey’s and Miller’s writing from the more formulaic structural beats that typify many independent films. It’s the microbudget equivalent of those strangely special family get-together dramas like Dan in Real Life or Home for the Holidays. Homestate is a lovable movie waiting to be discovered by those not yet cynical enough to judge festival screenings by title alone. To be frank, this particular title is the film’s worst cliche.

Homestate screens again Wednesday, Oct. 19, 6:30pm, Galaxy Highland.

The Austin Film Festival runs Thu., Oct. 13, through Thu., Oct. 20. See for schedule and info. Follow our continuing coverage of the fest at www.austinchronicle/austin-film-festival.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Austin Film Festival
Austin Film Festival Announces Second Wave of Programming
AFF Announces Second Wave
Local voices are spotlighted in the new round of eight fest films

Katherine McNevins, Sept. 9, 2021

Gary Hart Biopic <i>The Front Runner</i> to Close Austin Film Festival
AFF Announces Second Wave
New films by Yorgos Lanthimos, Asghar Farhadi added to fest

Richard Whittaker, Sept. 12, 2018

More by Sean L. Malin
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
Louis Black Takes Richard Linklater Doc to PBS
dream is destiny airs on American Masters

Sept. 1, 2017

Totally Total Providence
Totally Total Providence
Animator Paul Beck presents A Scanner Darkly at Alamo Drafthouse Mueller

Aug. 25, 2017


Austin Film Festival 2016, Austin Film Festival, Homestate

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Eric Goodman's Austin FC column, other soccer news

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle