Opening itself with an iconographic picture postcard, (a black and white panorama of smalltown, mid-West USA), it's evident that House Of America is not just another Welsh Trainspotting. It may bear all the hallmarks of a Boyle-inspired indie rush, but this intriguing British production comes on more like a celtic version of the Grapes Of Wrath, chronicling how a dysfunctional family are seduced and finally destroyed by the false lustre of the American dream.
Dad fled to the States years back, and Gwenny writes religiously to him, but receives nothing in return. Unemployed, the two brothers try to get jobs at the local open-cast mine, only to get beaten up for being mouthy. Mum - - the fabulous Sian Phillips - - is going ever more loopy. Gwenny and Sid talk and drink, talk and do drugs, and talk. Inevitably, all this chatter about life, America, Kerouac and finding dad propels Sid and Gwenny into a mental lather. More drug-induced ramblings follow, and hey, there's even a dash of incest as the family lose their grip on reality. Ever so slowly the film lurches into tragedy as its bombed out protagonists take a mental road trip to nowhere.
House Of America is a resonant low budget flick from assured first-time movie director Marc Evans. It has, especially during the first half, some pithy one-liners, before its gradual slide into disturbing melodrama. The deliciously literate and intelligent script ricochets off of the screen and there is some beautiful acting by the four leads, especially from newcomer Matthew Rhys (Boyo). Surprisingly, the film also looks beautiful: - the switching between black-and-white America and cadaver-coloured Wales is refreshingly different, and throws out some great images. There's a cracking soundtrack too. But most crucially of all, House Of America makes you think.
A gritty and well-constructed low-budget Welsh melodrama that's deep, dark and really does have a story to tell. As a character study of two individuals and their fall into a mental abyss, it's excellent.