‘Coming Home’: Film Review

Viko Nikci’s documentary concerns a wrongly convicted ex-con’s effort to resume his life.

The thin line between reality and performance is blurred in Viko Nikci’s documentary about an ex-con attempting to resume his life after serving a thirteen-year prison sentence. Depicting his interactions with his wife, estranged daughter, and even the man who ultimately confessed to having committed the crime, Coming Home has the uncomfortable feel of a scripted drama due to its subjects’ uncanny ease at having intimate, personal conversations as if the camera wasn’t there.

The story revolves around Angel Cordero, who at age 25 was convicted of attempted murder involving a stabbing in the Bronx about which he claimed he was only an innocent bystander. Seven years into his term, a man named Dario Rodriguez stepped forward and confessed to the crime. Amazingly, his confession was deemed unreliable and Angel served the rest of his sentence until being paroled.

The Bottom Line

Too slick for its own good.

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Although he’s able to pick things up again with his wife, Angel finds greater difficulty reestablishing his bond with his sixteen-year-old daughter Sarah who has been raised by family friends in Florida. Only three when her father went to prison, she’s unable to fully embrace the father she barely knows, even as Angel laments the loss of their relationship.

“I want that ‘daddy’s little girl’ thing again,” he complains.

Their tensions are laid bare in a series of heartfelt father/daughter conversations that somehow ring false. Could these two really behave so naturally and unselfconsciously in the presence of even a minimal camera crew? Sarah, maybe, because today’s teens are practically raised to be reality television stars? But Angel, totally ignorant of social media and who has to be taught how to text?

The film’s principal dramatic encounter is between Angel and Dario, the man who let him spend years in prison before finally admitting to having committed the crime. 

“I didn’t want to do fifteen years,” Dario says without emotion. “In my heart, I got away that night.”

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The film tells a powerful, moving story, but its very slickness gets in the way. Whether showing Angel walking across the Brooklyn Bridge as plaintive music plays in the background or endlessly reprising the Puff Daddy song that provides its title, Coming Home too often has the feel of a glossy indie drama.

Production: Welcome Home Pictures, Samson Films
Director: Niko Nikci
Producers: Viko Nikci, David Colllins
Director of photography: Robert Flood
Editors: Viko Nikci, Grace Morgan
Composers: Rori Coleman, Dawn Kenny

Not rated, 86 min.