Review: Asa Butterfield Comes Of Age Through Punk In 'House Of Tomorrow'

Peter Livolsi's directorial debut, The House of Tomorrow, based on the novel of the same name by Peter Bognanni, is a well-cast classic coming-of-age film in an unconventional setting. Sebastian (Asa Butterfield) lives with his grandmother Josephine (Ellen Burstyn) in a geodesic dome called the House of Tomorrow, where they give tours of the futuristic-in-the-past structure. More importantly, after the death of his parents, Sebastian spends his time nearly exclusively in the House of Tomorrow with only his Nana and the occasional tour group for company. He is a mild-mannered teenager when he meets a church youth group led by Alan Whitcomb (Nick Offerman). If Sebastian didn't know that his life would change when Alan's daughter, Meredith (Maude Apatow) offers to read his palm, he knows it when her punk rock brother, Jared (Alex Wolff) challenges his Nana's ideas about working towards a sustainable future, in the middle of which she suffers a stroke. It's at the hospital that we see the moment that we've been waiting for: Jared gives Sebastian a listen to punk, the first time he's heard music that isn't whale songs or classical music. 

We see Sebastian and Jared's friendship grow as Sebastian is desperate for companionship and to learn more about the anger that is communicated in punk rock and Jared is desperate to start a punk rock band before his precarious heart condition renders him unable to channel his angst. Jared's heart condition seems like a tired trope at first, but the performances of Offerman, Apatow, and Wolff really sell the depth of each character and family dynamic. The writing wasn't very strong and other actors would have easily made this movie feel made-for-tv-campy but the cast shone and gave great nuanced performances. I was also impressed with Asa Butterfield, whose Sebastian slowly changes from the almost alien-like sheltered boy at the beginning to a punk rock teen at the end. I only wish that the pacing at the beginning of the movie was better, as I found it very slow to the point of near boredom until Sebastian begins his friendship with Jared, which takes quite a while to happen. I understand that it is appropriate for his idyllic life at the House of Tomorrow, but even then things take a while to pick up.
The premise is far from original and you aren't in for any big surprises or twists, but the strong cast pull tell an endearing story. If you’re a fan of punk rock, geodesic domes like the one at Epcot, and a nice take on an old story, I’d recommend checking out The House of Tomorrow

Rating: 3 out of 5