A House Made of Splinters movie review (2023) – Roger Ebert


Final month, one of the vital stunning Oscar nominees was “A Home Made from Splinters,” a movie that edged out some robust contenders within the Finest Documentary class and is getting a VOD and restricted theatrical launch right this moment. Anybody who noticed it should not be too shocked. It is accessible, shifting, and tragically well timed. Filmed at an orphanage in Jap Ukraine earlier than the warfare started there in February of final 12 months, it is exhausting to push away ideas of how a lot this a part of the world has been decimated over the past 12 months. The place are these youngsters and their caretakers now? Whereas director Simon Lereng Wilmont and his staff could not have envisioned what would quickly occur on this a part of the world, they do seize the affect of cycles of violence and trauma, which definitely work their method into the fractures of this panorama for generations to come back. Wilmont’s movie edges into emotional exploitation at occasions, however the uncooked moments he captures on this facility are a testomony to the belief he clearly constructed with everybody there—and that capacity to seize fact with out interfering or manufacturing offers his movie an plain emotional energy.

“A Home Made from Splinters” unfolds at Lysychansk, a facility in Ukraine the place mother and father can drop off youngsters for as much as 9 months, at which level they’re put into the foster system. The concept is that it is a spot for youths to be whereas adults cope with issues that no youngster ought to endure, like alcoholism or abuse. The issue is that these demons typically take longer than 9 months, and generally mother and father merely do not return for his or her youngsters, succumbing to dependancy so badly that it modifications their parental standing.

The kids Wilmont follows are extra keenly conscious of their conditions than you may suppose. Children are much more observant than adults imagine, and it is fascinating to listen to them cautiously discuss right here about their house lives and see how they wrestle with homesickness, trauma, and worry. They typically lash out at one another, or the adults, particularly the boys—one cuts his arm and makes use of a marker to deface the ability. And Wilmont opens the door to how a lot conditions like this trickle down throughout generations. “She copies what she noticed in her childhood,” says a social employee who speaks of seeing moms who had been youngsters at Lysychansk now dropping off their offspring.

Wilmont is cautious to not wallow in distress, stating how a lot pleasure these youngsters discover of their on a regular basis existence. It is shifting when a lady is heartbroken over not having the ability to attain her alcoholic mom, however there’s one thing much more highly effective in regards to the following scene, wherein she performs with bubbles in a corridor together with her pal. Children should be youngsters. They should giggle collectively. They should smile. Seeing that emerge even throughout constant grief is the place “Splinters” will get its most power. And it is most tragic how play has change into an excellent rarer commodity within the nation of Ukraine because the movie was shot.

There are occasions when Wilmont might have turned away a couple of seconds earlier, however that is seemingly simply the protecting mother or father in me who needed to show off the digicam and provides these younger adults their house. Documenting childhood trauma in a movie is a difficult line to stroll as a result of a child can solely give a lot approval for that to now ceaselessly be part of movie historical past, and this documentary is so lean by way of kind that it is generally over-reliant on personal emotion. However Wilmont would not cross that line as a lot as different filmmakers have beforehand, and one may argue that it is a testomony to how a lot these youngsters trusted him that they allowed such personal moments to change into public.

Wilmont is cautious to not betray that belief with overdone music or too many close-ups of tears—though there are sufficient of these to make this one of many extra emotionally exhausting movies in a very long time. As an alternative, he will get his most mileage out of mere observations, whether or not catching a troubled younger man laughing together with his mates or framing the sunshine behind two youngsters taking part in behind curtains. Each child performs. Generally even when they know they will get a splinter after they do.

On VOD and in theaters right this moment.

Brian Tallerico
Brian Tallerico

Brian Tallerico is the Editor of RogerEbert.com, and in addition covers tv, movie, Blu-ray, and video video games. He’s additionally a author for Vulture, The Playlist, The New York Instances, and Rolling Stone, and the President of the Chicago Movie Critics Affiliation.

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A House Made of Splinters movie poster

A Home Made from Splinters (2023)

87 minutes


Director of Pictures

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