Franka Potente Directs Aisling Franciosi and Kathy Bates in a Story That Hits Home
In the opening scene of Home, a solitary figure skateboards his way home after spending 17 years behind bars. Marvin (Jake McLaughlin) is almost 40 years old and has spent over half of his life in prison after murdering an old woman while in a drug-fueled rage at 17. That’s the intriguing premise behind the feature writing and directing debut from Franka Potente, better known to audiences for her performance as Marie Kreutz in The Bourne Identity or in the title role in the indie hit Run Lola Run. The accomplished actress may be behind the camera this time around, but in front of it, Potente has help from Aisling Franciosi (Game of Thrones, The Nightingale) and Academy Award–winner Kathy Bates.
“It was the first full length script I’ve written,” Potente says. “I’ve just always been interested in less-fortunate protagonists that are at a point of change in their life … I started creating the story of someone who made a terrible mistake and is still carrying the burden of it when he returns to the most trusted place that he has in his life, which is his house, his home, his family.” Potente, who was born and raised in Germany, wanted to explore themes that were universal but took place in a distinctly American setting, opting for a small town in California.
One of the most daunting aspects of Marvin’s return home is the attempt to reconnect with his mother, Bernadette, who is played by Bates. “We rarely hear what the parents go through,” Bates says of the role. The screen legend is known for her work in Misery, Fried Green Tomatoes, Titanic and most recently, she was nominated for another Oscar for Richard Jewell. This time, Bates found herself doing a deep dive into the stories of parents who had been through similar trauma. For Bates, it was important to bring a feeling of authenticity to the role, and that affected the way she conducted herself on set.
“I spoke to Franka very early on,” Bates says. “Because Bernadette has not seen her son in 20 years, I didn’t want to meet Jake.” Bates felt that in a sense, these characters didn’t know each other, and that familiarity between the actors would betray that reality. “We were lucky to shoot in order. We really didn’t know each other. So, [when] we went through the first scene and he started to talk to me not as my character, I said ‘Let’s not get too chummy. Not yet.’ … We were able to develop our characters very slowly as we would have as a mother and son coming together after all those years. ”
Irish actress Aisling Franciosi plays Delta, a young single mother who develops a friendship with Marvin from the most unlikely of connections: It was her grandmother that Marvin killed. Franciosi found working with Potente to be a great experience and is only too happy to sing her writer-director’s praises.”I think it makes a huge difference when a director has acted. It just means that there’s a short hand there,” she says.
“There are some writers who are like, ‘If there’s an ‘um’ there, I want you to say it,’ whereas Franka was very ‘make it your own. I want you to do what you need to do to make it feel authentic.’ … I felt very lucky from the very beginning that she kind of understood that and let us do our thing.”
Bates recalls watching a specific scene where Marvin is at a support group meeting with Delta doing trust fall exercises and how poignant the scene was in her eyes, serving as a metaphor for both characters learning to open themselves up. “To me, that says everything about what kind of a director Franka is,” Bates says. “she’s saying something so unusual, but it says everything about the core of what the film is about.”
When it came to the story, Potente wanted Marvin to be a human being who’d made a tragic mistake, but she also didn’t want to spoon feed the audience every detail about why he did it or how they should feel about him. “I feel like that many times with films like this that disclose the reason why, it starts to override what I really wanted people to take the time and see,” Potente says. ”It gives you almost … a way out, because it becomes kind of a thriller element that … invites us as the audience or as people to start judging. … It kind of gets in the way of just watching things unfold on just a human, emotional level.”
The chance to tell the story of Home was a special experience for Potente, Bates and Franciosi, and it’s a rewarding experience for audiences who take the time to get to know these truly unforgettable characters. Home is available now on video on-demand platforms.