“Hope dies last”. This is probably the line from this Danish/Swedish/Ukraine/Finnish co-produced documentary that sums up what it is all about. Though it depicts an awfully tough situation that people are having to live through, it keeps coming back to the fact that hope remains.

All across the planet most of us would agree that war is horrible. We point to the number of dead as proof, but we should also be mentioning those who survive. Those who are scarred for life due to what they have had to live through. Often we do not think about how growing up in this environment affects children. This documentary does not forget them.

The house in the title is a very special one. It is a shelter or rehab centre located in Easter Ukraine that houses children who have been removed from their homes while the court decides custody involving them. They and their families are going through tough situations and are brought to a place filled with strangers. Plus now, Ukraine has been invaded by Russia, so there is a war going on at the same time.

An intimate look at the staff and children at the Lyssytchansk centre. The intimacy is attained by the fact that Simon Lereng Wilmont’s (The Distant Barking of Dogs, Kids on the Silk Road) camera (he is the director and cinematographer here) is non-intrusive. It stays in the background and allows the kids and staff to act as they naturally would. Then he captures those moments.

Despite what is happening in their lives, family homes and their country, the kids here behave like…well, kids. They play, laugh, cry, fight, and say funny things. But you would have to be blind and deaf to not see the effects of what they are living through on them. They come from broken families and now are living through the dangers and stresses of war. Your heart breaks for them over and over.

While their spirits show there is hope and gives the viewer a reason to cling to the idea that they might come out the other side to live a good life, what really touched me was the devotion of the staff at the centre. How much they obviously care for these kids and will go to any length to help them. They do what they can to support and make the youngsters feel safe in horrible circumstances.

The kids can only be at the centre for a maximum of 9 months. While for us that seems like a short amount of time, for them it must seem like ages. The best moments are when they speak for themselves. They use their own words to describe their lives and what they are feeling. We are horrified when we hear what their homes are like. The toxic environments. There are small rays of light within all the depressing moments. Marvel at how, despite all that is working against them, these kids have moments of happiness. Quite inspiring.

An observational film filled with plenty of emotions.

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