“I felt my own largeness heating up the air,” says Bobby Morrow during a full-frontal moment in Michael Cunningham’s 1990 novel A Home at the End of the World. The atmosphere must have warmed up considerably during test screenings of the film version, because the studio was forced to cut Colin Farrell’s nude scene, according to a British tabloid, after gasping audiences were too distracted by his greatness to concentrate on what little there is in terms of plot. Farrell’s other talents are not displayed at their best here either: In the book, the strong-but-silent Bobby’s interior monologues gave him a semblance of an inner life, but Cunningham’s Cliff’s Notes adaptation shrinks the character to a monosyllabic man-child with a puppy-dog stare. (Maybe it’s all the acid Bobby drops as a nine-year-old in the prologue.)
Bobby, childhood friend Jonathan (Dallas Roberts), and free-spirited fag hag Clare (Robin Wright Penn), plus baby, cohabit in the titular house (for Cunningham’s purposes, the end of the world lies somewhere outside Woodstock). While the novel explores the minutiae that threaten the delicate balance of this bizarre love triangle, the film leaves us wondering what Bobby’s friends see in him. Perhaps to compensate for the diminished melodrama, the filmmakers have recruited Sissy Spacek to play Jonathan’s repressed suburban mom (apparently Julianne Moore was unavailable), which she does with tableware-smashing In the Bedroom gusto.