REVIEW: The Road Home [2010]

Score: 7/10 | ★ ★ ★

Rating: NR | Runtime: 21 minutes | Release Date: 2010 (UK)
Director(s): Rahul Gandotra
Writer(s): Milja Fenger & Rahul Gandotra

“What’s so wrong with being Indian?”

It’s easy to ignore questions about identity while living in America because its melting pot of cultures allows its citizens to put ethnicity aside and simply declare themselves “American”. Whether your skin is light or dark or you have a foreign accent or just one of the many regional ones growing up in the States provides, being American doesn’t mean one thing or the other. You won’t look any more out of place than the next if you’re walking down the street. But this is far from the case internationally as almost every other country was built upon an indigenous population rather than immigrants coalescing. So when young Pico (Arrun Harker)—ethnically Indian—finds himself struggling to retain a British nationality while attending a Himalayan boarding school, you can’t blame his feeling caught between two worlds.

Kids can be cruel while at the same time understanding completely what someone else is experiencing. Most bullying actually relies on this fact as the predator uncovers his prey’s weakness to exploit it to his heart’s content. And frankly, Pico does automatically make you think “Indian” due to his appearance—a generalization exacerbated when inside said country and surrounded by those who look the same. Does it mean he isn’t English? No. But it doesn’t mean he isn’t Indian either. I don’t know how it is in England but even if we know little about our heritage in America, we still acknowledge it exists. We’re allowed that duality—especially since many possess multiple, divergent branches in his/her pasts. Pico, however, only sees himself as what he wants to be in the future and Indian isn’t it.

Rahul Gandotra’s The Road Home shows what it’s like to watch as your peers refuse to accept you for who want to be as you yourself ignore who you are. Unable to face the truth his classmates so gracious enjoy throwing his way, Pico runs away. He sneaks out his bedroom window, walks into town, and finds a taxicab driver willing to drive him to New Delhi for ten thousand rupees in order to fly back to London and forget this exercise he doesn’t believe is necessary to get him into Harvard. What he didn’t anticipate, however, was how walking through India looking like he does only forces his heritage upon him even more. The sting only increases too when the people assuming he’s local aren’t trying to be mean like his classmates were.

No, cabbie Kuldeep (Ashish Dha) simply wants conversation and does so by speaking Hindi out of habit. And tourist Marie (Emily Lucienne) just desires to introduce herself to the people she comes across, unable to know how deeply rooted Pico’s hatred of his skin color is when trying to tell him she couldn’t be blamed for calling him what he is. It’s an easy mistake and one that only makes the boy angrier each time it’s made. And while it’s presumptuous of those he crosses paths with to think it—enough so that their insistence in telling him he needs to embrace it while in the motherland rings a bit overly forceful—you can’t help but agree. But while anyone who willingly decides to live abroad should learn the native tongue, Pico didn’t choose his move.

Gandotra and co-writer Milja Fenger’s script hit us over the head with these themes, but it being a short film does necessitate a modicum of bluntness to ensure the point comes across. It becomes the actors’ jobs to make this concentrated effort seem natural in its brevity and they do so in broad performances that earn the emotional weight. Harker’s Pico is a brat who’s frustrated by this need to embrace a life unfamiliar to him; Dha’s Kuldeep is funny, compassionate, and moral in his role as guide; and Lucienne adds a nice bit of outside perspective as an equal to Pico on paper who’s enjoying a completely different experience due to the color of her skin. Caught in a unique situation wherein he cannot escape his roots, it’s only when he accepts them that he may hope to move forward.

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One Thought to “REVIEW: The Road Home [2010]”

  1. additional information courtesy of the director:

    “Thanks so much for taking the time to watch the film and writing the review! It’s always interesting to hear someone else’s perspective on the film. Given that you spent the time watching the film and reviewing it, I thought I’d share with you some of the background behind the film:

    What I hoped to capture in the film is not necessarily an identity story per se, but more the Third Culture Kid (TCK) experience (a term I only learned about when I first approached the school in the film to see if I could shoot there).

    Rather than a boy who is ostensibly in denial of his roots, the film has more to do with a boy defending a feeling he has inside that doesn’t not match his outside, i.e. his biology doesn’t do an appropriate job of describing his cultural upbringing.

    This experience is somewhat different from the American experience, where one might have a mixed cultural identity – being a blend of their original and American culture.

    For more about the term Third Culture Kid, you can see these links:

    Because I was not making a documentary, I didn’t think it was appropriate to have a scene that mentioned the term “Third Culture Kid,” and so I’ve found that the message of the film has sometimes been seen as an identity story rather than a TCK story. Of course, if one does not know the term or the phenomenon, I can fully understand why the film can be viewed as such.”

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