The family drama “Two Ways Home” opens with a whirlwind prologue, finding its heroine in a crisis of her own making. Kathy, played by Tanna Frederick, is holding up a convenience store, brashly shouting instructions to the baffled cashier before she’s caught by the police. In prison, she learns she has bipolar disorder and, after achieving some stability, is released early on good behavior. Now all she has to do is make sense of the mess she left behind at home.
Her daughter, Cori (Rylie Behr), has grown into a snarky 12-year-old. Her ex, Junior (Joel West), is dating someone new. Kathy’s warmest welcome comes from her grandfather Walter (Tom Bower), a lifelong farmer whose land in Iowa has made him a target for the schemes of resentful relatives. Kathy enters the fray with all the boldness she had at the convenience store; she just has to maintain the equilibrium she found in recovery.
Put kindly, the director Ron Vignone shoots this straightforward film in a utilitarian style. Put less kindly, the images appear flat and washed out. Though the characters squabble over a beautiful plot of land, the majority of the drama transpires in over-lit, under-designed living rooms.
Rather than high production values, the greatest asset of “Two Ways Home” is its cast of largely unknown actors, many of whom grew up in Iowa. Their faces have laugh lines and sun damage, and their Heartland accents are unpracticed. In particular, Frederick is blessed with conviction and an interesting face, and she credibly anchors the movie with breezy charisma.