The story behind brothers Logan and Noah Miller getting their movie made is almost better than what’s onscreen, but the film is heartfelt and engaging enough to be worthy of attention. Touching Home is obviously a very personal first effort for the Millers, who star, write, direct and produce this story about twin brothers that dream of making baseball’s big leagues despite obstacles at home. Presented two years ago at the San Francisco International Film Festival, Touching Home is finally getting a limited theatrical release in New York and Northern California with hopes of expansion if successful. Presence of Ed Harris should help, but it’s tough out there for indie projects like this one.
Nothing if not plucky, the Millers have already published a funny and well-written companion book entitled Either You’re In or You’re In The Way about the travails of getting their movie onscreen. Like their film, the book is dedicated to their late father and is the result of a promise they made to him before he died. The movie that they succeeded in producing does show some natural filmmaking talent although their acting talents, while promising, are spotty in places.
A prologue establishes Lane (Logan Miller) and Clint (Noah Miller) as hot shot Marin County Little Leaguers who are basically ignored by their father, Charlie (Ed Harris). Flash forward 15 years later and they are still struggling with their baseball dreams in Arizona, where they now live. Lane’s a minor league pitcher and Clint goes to college while still harboring hopes he can join ‘bro (as he constantly calls him) on the field. Things go badly for both simultaneously and they are forced to return home to Northern California to make enough cash for another whack at the game next spring. Saving money by living with Grandma (Lee Meriwether) and Uncle Clyde (Brad Dourif), they get jobs at the same construction site where their drunken, down-and-out father works. Although he now lives outside the house in his truck, Dad isn’t far away and his drinking and gambling habits are constantly posing problems for his spirited sons. Clint in particular rails against him, seemingly blaming him for all his own problems. The bulk of the film is played out against a number of familial conflicts as the brothers try to save enough money to get out and get on with their lives.
Although baseball plays a part in the story this is really a traditional family drama about fathers and sons, hopes and dreams, little triumphs and big disappointments. Even though they are playing fictionalized versions of themselves, its clear the Millers are very close to this scenario and almost might have been better off casting two other actors in the leads to keep it from feeling too close to life. Yet, considering their lack of acting experience both acquit themselves nicely, particularly Logan. Noah tends to shout his lines too much at first but eases into the role as the film progresses. The filmmakers basically stalked Harris for the father’s role and it was well worth the effort as the actor delivers touching and award-level work here. Dourif is a delight as their uncomplicated Uncle while Meriwether has little to do. Robert Forster is as solid as ever playing the sympathetic local sheriff. Ishiah Benben is fine as Lane’s supportive girlfriend.
Considering all the tasks they take on here, the Millers’ direction is tight and for the most part their script is well structured, peppered with fully dimensional human beings. You can’t help but root for these guys and if Touching Home isn’t quite a cinematic homer, it’s a solid double and a first film of which they should be proud.
Distributor: CFI Releasing
Cast: Ed Harris, Robert Forster, Lee Meriwether, Logan Miller, Noah Miller, Ishiah Benben, Brad Dourif, Evan Jones, Brandon Hanson.
Directors/Screewriters: Logan Miller and Noah Miller
Producers: Jeremy Zajonc, Logan Miller and Noah Miller
Rating: PG-13 for thematic material involving alcoholism, language, brief violence and for smoking.
Running time: 108 min.
Release date: April 30 ltd.