Film review: Almost Home (Dances With Films 26)

Subtitled “life after incarceration”, this documentary film directed by Bill Wisneski gives us much to reflect on about the legal system, rates of ofending, and the prison system in the United States.

Almost Home takes an objective look at formally incarcerated students enrolled in an innovative programne at a community college. It focuses on their voices and gives their stories, supplementing this with on-screen statistics.

Placed in a system that seems stacked against forgiveness or rehabilitation, the way a range of ages and ethnicities are represented makes this a strong argument against the current corrective system.

Wisneski’s film argues that patterns of poverty, unemployment, and general community attitudes can inevitably lead to re-offending, as well as highlighting issues such as credit issues and probation conditions as problematic.

The value of education is key. As one student says, “A lot of us are smart. We have just never been told we are smart.” These men and women are articulate, keen, and ready to rejoin society and contribute: even to do good.

Promotional image for Almost Home

There is also the issue of middle-aged job applucants declaring criminal convictions from their teenage years on robbery or violence. Do these people never merit a second chance? Are they the same people they were half a lifetime ago?

When I was recruiting, I was probably driven by my own biases on how a person looked, and Almost Home goes into depth on this issue and how to look beyond the surface of an individual.

It may not cause a sea-chamge of opinion overnight, but it puts many political and social issues in perspective – and, sadly, tackles the issue of loss, connection, and friendship, too.

With a lot to think about and a very persuasive narrative, Almost Home deserves to have a life beyond the festival film circuit and to be widely seen and discussed.

Almost Home played at the Dances With Films festival in summer 2023. Read more about it and see clips at its dedicated website.