Penny (Adjoa Andoh) is struggling. Due to cutbacks at work she is close to losing the facilities in which her special needs group practices and performs. At home her husband and son are facing debilitating conditions of their own. House Finch covers a day in the life of a woman who gives freely and willingly but doesn’t receive the support she so desperately desires.
A couple years back I had the pleasure of reviewing director, Joe Johnson’s previous short film, Something Blue. Melancholic without suffering through melodrama, the seven-minute piece focussed on a conversation in the kitchen between a man and a woman. We were given hints at a deeper history and glimpse of emotional scars struggling to heal. As a follow up, House Finch continues with these themes and leans harder into the lives we encounter.
Adjoa Andoh is excellent here as Penny. She manages to leave an impression through a nuanced, naturalistic performance. As with Mark Gillis’ Sink from earlier this year, House Finch deflects the usual “misery porn” trappings by virtue of its performances. We believe in Penny and feel for her. Her struggles are something we can all understand to a degree, and the intimacy she shares with her family are both familiar and painful. The film ends with a striking visual that appears to be representative of the internal anguish of the protagonist. There is a poetry to our parting glance that leaves us with an ambiguous sight of the future. Without further time with Penny it’s this uncertainty that the audience is left with, and that is no small statement to make.
The only element I struggled with was the score which is a touch too heavy-handed for my taste. Lacking the subtlety so readily available within the dialogue and photography, the music really wants us to know how to feel at key points. That aside, House Finch is another fine work from Johnson who again situates the audience in the midst of stirring turmoil. I left this short wondering what was next for Penny and her family. Perhaps that’s the greatest compliment one can pay to a well written and effectively performed character.
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