Often threatening sentimentality yet never quite sinking into it, Josh Barrett and Marc Menchaca’s This Is Where We Live benefits from the good taste of the filmmakers, whose appetite for understatement ensures that the picture maintains dramatic effectiveness and only rarely lurches into histrionics.
Menchaca stars as Noah, an out-of-work handyman in Texas hill country hired as an aide to August (Tobias Segal), a young man with cerebral palsy. An unlikely friendship ensues, but rather than mining TV-movie sappiness, the filmmakers employ a strategy of even-handed observation, presenting a comprehensive portrait of Noah’s work (taking August to the bathroom, bathing him), not just simply highlighting the pleasant moments (like an exhilarating scene where Noah takes August for a go-kart ride).
Barrett and Menchaca also avoid the perpetual pratfall of this subgenre: treating disabled characters with some mixture of condescension and patronizing affection — August is allowed to express his agency, which helps the friendship feels honest.
Noah, too, could have fallen into the realm of caricature — the character is built from the Western loner-drifter archetype, with no friends and little money — but something about Menchaca’s worn body language, as if he’s carrying a permanent weight, suggests genuine pain.
While the supporting characters in August’s family feel, at times, underwritten or too conveniently addled with additional problems (August’s father has Alzheimer’s), the honesty of the central relationship remains uncompromised.