While you're watching No Way Home (1996), you get to live in Staten Island's run-down, heat-trapped stillness. The dirty aluminum siding, old-lady decor, and overenthusiastic grocery posters advertising grapes or toilet paper--it all gives you a palpable sense of a neighborhood lost in time. Not a neighborhood celebrating its heritage, but a place without history or a future.
Tim Roth is released from prison after serving six years for a crime that's eventually revealed as the movie progresses. He heads back to the family home on Long Island still inhabited by his brother (played by James Russo), and his brother's new slattern-hot wife (played by Deborah Kara Unger). The mother has passed and Russo has let the house go all to hell. The movie lingers over the dirty dishes stacked in a once-nice dining room, and the sizeable backyard now peppered with weeds and beer bottles.
Russo and Unger are the typical bickering lowlifes, with Russo complaining about a lack of beer while weighing out ounces of weed; and Unger sighs while doing the dishes and chain smoking in a slip and flannel shirt (her wardrobe for most of the film). The couple let Roth stay in the family house but relegated to a bare mattress in the basement.
On parole with few skills, Roth roams the streets of his hometown looking for work and dodging reminders of how much life has gone on without him. Russo's numerous illegal escapades bring Roth back into the shit and violence ensues. Once it's learned why Roth was incarcerated, you realize how much Roth's one-sided love for his brother Russo is the product of manipulation and guilt.
Although the plot is a bit clunky and you can guess the outcome by miles, No Way Home is a remarkable movie. It's rare that a film entrenched in the low-life crime genre is so quiet and poetic, taking the time to give you a tour of some of the forgotten (and now gone) bits of Long Island. It's the sound of hopelessness in the sweet late summer breeze.
No Way Home is only available in the US on VHS. You can find a UK/Region 0 DVD online.