Coming-of-age dramas face an uphill battle shared by few other genres: The more accurately they reflect their protagonists' inner worlds, the more they open themselves up to derision. Co-writer/director Anna Axster's A Country Called Home overcomes this particular hurdle by following a character who's neither puerile nor precocious; Ellie (Imogen Poots) is simply a young woman who's already learned to take life's difficulties in stride by the time we meet her. She's also believably human, as one of the first things we see her do is avoid a call from an unknown number. A voicemail informs her that her estranged father has had a stroke, and in a follow-up call she learns that he's died. Ellie's visit to his Texas home confirms everything she already knew to be true about her old man: that he was an angry drunk whose rampant alcoholism alienated everyone who ever cared about him. Poots, who's quietly distinguished herself in a number of supporting roles over the last few years, brings a documentary-like naturalism to the familiar plotting; you'll care about her even if you begin to lose interest the movie as a whole. Axster's low-key character study eventually gives way to melodrama: a chair attack at the deceased's memorial service, a Big Lebowski-like dispute about urns (minus the coffee-flavored humor). You'll be ready to go home by the time Ellie is, though her experiences might not feel as eye-opening to you as they do to her.
Anna AxsterImogen Poots, Mary McCormack, Mackenzie Davis, June Squibb, Shea Whigham, Josh Helman, Ryan BinghamAnna Axster, Jim BeggarlyAlchemy, ARC Entertainment