Coming to theaters from writer/director Peter Livolsi based on the novel by Peter Bognanni and Shout! Studios is the ideals of the past, frozen in the present with eyes toward the “The House of Tomorrow.”
Living in a dome house in the woods is Sebastian Prendergast (Asa Butterfield), a young teenager living with his grandmother Josephine (Ellen Burstyn) studying the philosophies of R. Buckminster Fuller. Josephine has kept Sebastian sequestered from the rest of the world and it will soon become obvious to the young man.
Alan Whitcomb (Nick Offerman) arrives at the House of Tomorrow with a church group to hear all about the history of Buckminster along with son Jared (Alex Wolff) and Meredith (Maude Apatow). While speaking with the kids, Josephine ends up in the hospital and that’s when Alan and Jared notice that Sebastian isn’t an ordinary teenager.
Sebastian may be different but then again so is Jared. When Alan makes an attempt to help along a friendship, Jared isn’t the warm and fuzzy type. Yet Sebastian takes the initiative to visit the Whitcomb home and learns that Jared is different in his own way. Meredith sees Sebastian’s innocence as sweet and notices that her brother has truly taken an interest in life.
Learning about one another is awkward yet school is in session as their friendship turns to music and all the things Sebastian has been missing outside of his dome-cocoon. Josephine spends her time coming up with ideas to get more people into the dome for visits but also notices that something is changing about her grandson. Feeling him pulling away causes an emotional showdown.
When Alex and Sebastian decide to start a band and perform — they are up against a grandmother who refuses to budge from the past, an overprotective father who is afraid of the present and a future that can only shine for the House of Tomorrow.
Butterfield as Sebastian has once again embraced a role that is deep, endearing and innocent. Smarter than the average teen and a vocabulary even an adult would shy away from, it is when he crosses to the outer-side that the two worlds mesh and he makes it his own. Butterfield not only has the ability to show every fiber of innocence but when he lets loose, he also has the ability to make us all cheer for him!
Wolff as Jared is a young man dealing with an overprotective father and a mother with problems of her own. Finding an unusual friendship with Sebastian turns out to be just what the doctor ordered. Trying to find his own place in the world, Jared finds it in music, taking chances by breaking away bringing Sebastian with him. I truly enjoyed Wolff in this role and I admit he also made me laugh — a lot, and because just as Sebastian has a way of talking, so does Jared.
Offerman as dad Alan is raising two teenage kids who are clearly strong-willed and, once in a while, cause him to cringe with things they say and do. I have to say that Offerman has the calmness of a saint with all the shenanigans happening in his home as well as finding he has another teen in his home. When Alex needs him the most, Alan kicks into overdrive and starts to see his son differently. Apatow as Meredith is the girl who is irritated with Dad, insulting with brother and leery of mom — in other words a typical teenager. She sees something in Sebastian that gives her a little more hope that life still can be surprising.
Burstyn as Josephine has lived her life attached to that of R. Buckminster Fuller. Believing in the philosophies that the world can be a better place, she has raised her grandson to make a difference in the world. Of course when he becomes aware of the outside world, and a Pepsi, she becomes distraught thinking he will be lost to it all. I absolutely adore Burstyn, always have, and her role in “The House of Tomorrow” reminds me (as if I need it) of the astronomical level of her talent.
Writer Peter Bognanni teaches creative writing in Minnesota and won the Los Angeles Time Book Prize and the ALA Alex Award for the novel The House of Tomorrow. His second book is Things I’m Seeing Without You is a story of love, loss and loving again.
“The House of Tomorrow” is a beautiful film that wraps the past, present and future all around the heart. As someone who is well aware of R. Buckminster Fuller, I truly loved that his presence is mixed in the story and was surprised to learn the piece of footage with Burstyn and Fuller is actually real. Just that moment in the film brings the viewer into it all on an even deeper level.
Keeping the cast to a minimum is also something that I truly enjoyed about the story. Focusing on the relationship between Josephine, Sebastian and the Whitcomb’s lets our hearts open to endearment, coming of age, change and even a bit of laughter. This story is about five very different people discovering that grandmothers can be sticklers, fathers know more than they say and that kids reach a point where breaking away sometimes means breaking the rules.
In the end — make your own future!