In "Home Sweet Home," a saccharine whimsy imported from Belgium, the young director Benoit Lamy fearlessly takes the side of a group of pensioners who are being bullied by the tyrannical, sex-starved chief administrator of their old folks' home. The ringleader of the insurgents is a crusty little gent named Jules, played by Marcel Josz. He sets an example of stubborn defiance and fun-loving independence that eventually sets the stage for liberation and happy future prospects under a more enlightened institutional management.
To say that Lamy is a shameless stacker of decks would be putting it tepidly. Compared to Lamy, Frank Capra was a hard guy. Lamy's sentimentality is so brazenly manipulative and indiscriminate that it invites a cynical backlash. I began to feel a certain perverse fondness for the villainous administrator, played by Ann Petersen. It seemed only fair when the filmmaker was so intent on despising and humiliating her. If he had a wider range of sympathy and a more reputable technique, the effort wouldn't be necessary. One could judge the conflicts at the home on their own merits.
Opening today at the Outer Circle, "Home Sweet Home" was reportedly inspired by a real protest at a Belgian residence for the elderly. Still, it's a safe guess that Lamy derived more inspiration from the movies than stark reality. If you're desperate for a "populist" fix, I suppose this wheezy trifle, made back in 1973, will suffice. The righteous indignation it stirs is certainly risk-free. Haven't seen a more interesting Belgian film lately, that's for sure. It wouldn't surprise me to discover that it was hailed at least once, somewhere or other, as the advance droplet of a New Wave.