Monday 25 September 2023

Movie review: Lead Me Home, Netflix (2021)

Made my Pedro Kos and Jon Shen, ‘Lead Me Home’ is very short but very poignant. It’s incredibly difficult to make a topic like this palatable but using all the cinematic craft at their disposal the directors have achieved their goal. This is a stunning film that NEEDS to be repeated. 

In the film you come to know or at least recognise a few faces of people who are living rough. In America “homeless” only applies to such people so they count their homeless differently from how we do it in Australia. Different countries count homeless people in different ways. In Australia a person who is “homeless” can be living with a friend or relative, or else in some sort of precarious accommodation that doesn’t meet the necessary criteria to be called a home. In the US a homeless person lives on the street. Period. So the figure of 500,000 homeless that they plaster on the screen at the end of the movie is definitely an underestimate. Just as a matter of interest some countries count people in jail as homeless.

By focusing especially on a few individuals in the movie the filmmakers manage to humanise a complex problem. In one segment a person lists the reasons he has for being homeless, and yes that list can be long. It can include domestic problems such as DV, drug abuse, mental health problems, unemployment, or else a mixture of some or all of them.

I loved the use of establishing shots in the film, the way they used images of skyscrapers being built to contextualise the tents, the cars with flags draped over the windscreen for privacy. I just goddarn loved the visual qualities of this fabulous movie so much it almost made me want to cry. Because homelessness is such a confronting subject. The film only takes on West Coast cities like San Francisco and Seattle but homelessness is a universal issue, one that governments in some jurisdictions (such as New York and Finland) have successfully tackled. I’m not sure about New York but Finland has eliminated homelessness from what I heard last.

Everyone needs a home, and the subject of homelessness has found one in this touching film. Let’s hope there is a longer one soon, or else a docuseries that can focus in more depth on specific individuals, tracing their journey to destitution. Only in this way can we find a solution because politicians – who have the power to fix the problem – listen to what the community says as this film shows in the town hall meetings.

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