REVIEW: Lead Me Home [2021]

Rating: 5 out of 10.
  • Rating: PG-13 | Runtime: 39 minutes
    Release Date: November 30th, 2021 (USA)
    Studio: Netflix
    Director(s): Pedro Kos & Jon Shenk

You gradually get into an extreme situation. It doesn’t seem extreme.

With a statistic like the one that ends Pedro Kos and Jon Shenk‘s documentary short Lead Me Home stating how over half a million Americans experience homelessness on any given night, the need to narrow focus and ensure audiences aren’t lost in the futility of numbers rears its head. Because that’s a major issue when it comes to topics such as this. Those who can help simply by lending their compassion to a governmental vote balk at that expansive scope and tell themselves that one person can’t affect change. It’s the same with climate change. We continuously pass the buck onto those with seemingly more resources than us rather than finding the courage to finally take a stand and act. The first step is to humanize the statistic.

That’s exactly what the filmmakers do here by scouring through three years of footage in three different cities (Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Seattle) to highlight a handful of characters that viewers can relate to most. There’s a genial man led by pragmatism. A pregnant mother of two let down by the system that’s supposed to help after leaving an abusive husband. A young couple with a baby on the way trying to keep smiles on their faces. A working woman without any of the reductive earmarks of homelessness who literally leaves her janitorial job to lay on her shelter bunkbed right next door. And the ex-con, the dancer, and a few others who understand a reality that those who don’t too quickly ignore: everything starts with shelter.

Digging into that subject is where the film excels by shining light on the different scenarios proving it true. Like a mother who needs food-stamps to survive so she can afford an apartment losing those stamps once her salary is just enough to pay the rent. You don’t have to look too hard to see the disconnect and realize the complexities of assistance programs beyond hardline rules and regulations. Because as soon as the means for food is removed, the apartment becomes expendable. She can be homeless, but she cannot live without food. To therefore juxtapose her account with town halls railing against new shelters because they will “attract” homelessness is intentionally rage-inducing. Providing beds is how these men and women can deal with the rest.

I would have liked a lot more of that. Instead, we get a couple highly produced montages with melancholic needle drops that really lean into the whole being more advertisement for the film’s website than a substantive entity in its own right. That’s all well and good since having a central hub to educate and offer resources to get involved is great, but the film inherently flirts with exploitative tendencies and manipulations to do so. More than filmmakers desperate to get these stories out into the world, it feels like a polished prospective to wow angel investors more than anything else. That it succeeds despite that is a victory worth noting, but it leaves me wanting more nonetheless because its subjects deserve better than becoming political pawns.

courtesy of ShortsTV

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