Home by 8:30

By Perry White | Drama
A young man tries to hide his double life from his family. But it comes at a price.

A young man runs through a park at night, escaping from a cascade of shouting behind him. He makes his way home, where his family has been waiting for him to have dinner.

As dinner proceeds, he tries to hide his double life from his family. But keeping these dual parts of his life may come at a price.

Traditional narratives around "youth violence" in the news reduce people to a photo, a summary of events and maybe a caption on a newsfeed. But this short drama -- written and directed by Perry White -- adds dimension to the story, capturing the in-between moment where someone is alone or in their personal family space, just before their world comes crashing in.

The film begins with a shot of action and intrigue, as a young man runs through a park at night as shouting escalates behind him. The opening scenes, underlined with an anxious musical score, pump up the suspense, dropping us right into the action.

But the film shifts register, especially as the boy enters into the cozy, warm environs of a British Caribbean home, full of multigenerational family and an admonishment for almost missing dinner together. Well-crafted dialogue authentically captures the world that the boy comes from: familial respect, high expectations and teasing affection. And then we also see that he's been wounded but trying to hide, adding another level of suspense as he sits through dinner.

The collision of the boy's outside world and the warm family atmosphere forms the crux of the defining tension in the story, both for the character and the film. The strain of the young man's double life begins to seep out of him, like the blood on his makeshift bandages. The filmmaking has expressionist moments that heighten his subjective state of mind, from the woozy sound design to the saturated color contrasts. And actor Montel Bowen as the boy beautifully captures the dual nature of his character: both the loving member of a family with unique, beautifully and economically drawn relationships between each member, and also the haunted occupant of a hostile, dangerous outside world.

But try as he might, the crisp borders between home and violence will eventually collapse, leading "Home by 8:30" into its final devastating moments. We never quite get the full backstory for the young man, but in the end, the focus is on him as a human being from a family and home, and his struggle to protect the sanctity of those parts of his life and identity. It's telling that his character is never named in the film, which calls him "Son" in the credits. Whatever happened, he is a brother, a son, a grandson: someone with a relatable background, and more than just a tragic news story.

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