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Tuesday, April 20, 2021

‘Coming Home Again’: One kitchen where the best cook is the one with the least experience

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As a down-on-his-luck chef born and raised in a Vietnamese immigrant family in Texas, Sander Silver can relate to the character Tom in Ron English’s lovingly shot 90-minute drama Coming Home Again.

After a decade of forgoing a conventional culinary career to follow his dreams of pop stardom, Tom, played with admirable charm by Jonny Weston, makes a last-ditch effort to save his marriage and keep his restaurant from folding by holing up in a luxury hotel in Los Angeles and, with the help of alcohol, cooking several meals for his family.

It doesn’t go well. His plan to buy out his partner by offering to relaunch the failing restaurant is never put into effect, he takes too long to talk to his wife about the state of their marriage, and, in the meantime, abruptly leaves her in a key scene to go repair a water leak in their house.

England, a screenwriter and cinematographer known for acclaimed genre pictures like The Squid and the Whale and Road to Perdition, crafts a sure-handed drama that handles several well-defined dramatic beats with delicacy and restraint. The trip to L.A. is no longer a dream for Tom, but he is fortunate to have family in his corner. His grandmother Selvy (Norma Allen), and his mother, Rebe (Julie Anabel), offer him a welcoming home in a time of grief and heartbreak, and he demonstrates a fine level of camaraderie with his entire extended family, including his sister, Beatrice (Alexondra Lee), who returns from college to help out with the restaurant.

Still, Tom’s challenge is the structural integrity of the story, and by playing against expectations, English presents something entirely new and quite enjoyable as Tom makes a foray into a world where he is in no position to claim complete domination. This is one kitchen where the best cook is the one with the least experience, and as Tom tries to assert himself over his mother and grandmother, he finds himself falling back on his skills as a musician, and tries to set himself against his older brother George (Ben Hyland), a successful gambler and self-appointed survivalist.

You can’t say an entire film is about showing Tom the love and support of his family, but coming home again — no matter where he is — is something we all can relate to.

The ratings note: The film contains several strong sexual and profane language, graphic violence, language generally similar to that of middle school classrooms and adult situations.

You can see Coming Home Again Again in select New York and Los Angeles theaters, with a DVD and on demand on October 30.

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