Viewers who experienced the recession of 2008 will resonate with the journey that Dennis Nash (Andrew Garfield) takes in “99 Homes,” director Ramin Bahrani’s new housing crisis film. Bahrani is best known for his strongly metropolitan narratives, like the 12-year old orphan of “Chop Shop” and the Pakistani food cart manager of “Man Push Cart,” both set in New York City.
The Nash family’s eviction gives the film jarring focus. In the first few scenes, we see the family’s desperation as they try to pack their life’s items in just minutes following the announcement of their eviction. The first-person narrative shocks the viewer and provides a basis for Dennis’’s evolution throughout the film. Bahrani handles the subject delicately, yet with a dogged conviction, resulting in a picture that feels real, though at times flimsy.
The antagonist, wealthy and ruthless realtor Rick Carver (Michael Shannon), offers Nash the opportunity to work for him. This moment sparks a series of complicated choices and abandoned values. Carver offers a dark and cynical perspective on the recession, which justifies immoral acts and leaves the audience questioning our perceptions of wrong and right. For a while the answer is yes. With a determined spirit, Nash is able to provide for his family and work his way out of this morally convoluted web. The fulcrum of Nash’s strength of character is established when he finds himself becoming the villain he once abhorred.
In this film, humans take drastic measure to avoid complete economic ruin. Conversely, we also observe communities and families joining together, which seem to matter more when all else is lost.
Bahrani’s creation of a Great Recession film may seem redundant seven years after the fact, but he reminds us that there are still social obstacles that are very much alive. The amount of homeless women and children in the United States is rising faster than ever, and the real estate market is consistently notorious. The film reminds us that there are still problems to fix.
Though it is inevitable in film that there will be the occasional cheap line and poorly acted scene, the impact of “99 Homes” is not lost. Bahrani successfully forces the viewer to reconsider values and blind faith in government.
“99 Homes” will be released on Sept. 25 in theaters nationwide.
A version of this article appeared in the Sept. 21 print edition. Email Ryan Matera at [email protected]