Metascore
77

Generally favorable reviews - based on 24 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 20 out of 24
  2. Negative: 0 out of 24
  1. Reviewed by: Mike Scott
    Nov 30, 2012
    100
    The House I Live In is not a comfortable film to consider in any respect, but without discomfort it's hard to feel anger - and without anger, it's hard to imagine that anything will ever be done about it.
  2. Reviewed by: G. Allen Johnson
    Oct 18, 2012
    100
    Jarecki takes a highly original approach to create a compelling, thought-provoking look at a highly relevant and controversial topic.
  3. Reviewed by: Owen Gleiberman
    Oct 3, 2012
    100
    David Simon, creator of "The Wire," who argues that the targeting of minorities, fused with mandatory sentencing, has turned the war on drugs into ''a holocaust in slow motion.''
  4. Reviewed by: Marc Mohan
    Oct 25, 2012
    91
    This film could serve as a potent tool for those trying to change 40 years of public policy.
  5. Reviewed by: Lawrence Toppman
    Oct 25, 2012
    88
    I've heard that one definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that standard, the U.S. "War on Drugs" seems crazy indeed in The House I Live In.
  6. Reviewed by: Roger Ebert
    Oct 10, 2012
    88
    Jarecki's film makes a shattering case against the War on Drugs.
  7. Reviewed by: Eric Kohn
    Oct 4, 2012
    83
    A personal work not because the director chooses to make himself a part of the story, but rather because he implicates all of us in it.
  8. Reviewed by: Noel Murray
    Oct 3, 2012
    83
    The result is a movie that jumps all over the place, but with the ultimate intention of showing how the public's attitudes and assumptions about drugs have changed over the past half-century, guided by politicians and businessmen with a stake in misinformation.
  9. Reviewed by: Peter Bradshaw
    Nov 25, 2012
    80
    Among Jarecki's interviewees is David Simon (author of The Wire) who is incandescent with contempt for the system.
  10. Reviewed by: John Anderson
    Oct 4, 2012
    80
    The scope of the subject is such that when Mr. Jarecki's voiceover cuts into the narrative, imposing a personal angle on the national story, it reduces the sense of significance its creator aimed for. But that's a fairly backhanded endorsement of a very potent movie.
  11. Reviewed by: Manohla Dargis
    Oct 4, 2012
    80
    It's easy to take issue with a documentary like The House I Live In, which tackles too much in too brief a time and glosses over complexities, yet this is also a model of the ambitious, vitalizing activist work that exists to stir the sleeping to wake.
  12. Reviewed by: Marc Savlov
    Oct 24, 2012
    78
    The House I Live In is depressing stuff, but it sparks the fires of anger, and from that anger, possible action.
  13. Reviewed by: Rene Rodriguez
    Nov 9, 2012
    75
    The House I Live In is a work of journalism, not propaganda: Jarecki has done his research and leaves it to you to decide what to make of it.
  14. Reviewed by: Ty Burr
    Nov 1, 2012
    75
    I'm wary of implying that it's your civic duty to see The House I Live In, but - guess what - it is. And see it with someone whose views are different from your own. We're going to need everyone to help get us out of this mess.
  15. Reviewed by: Sean OConnell
    Oct 11, 2012
    75
    Technically, The House I Live In isn't season six of "The Wire." But Eugene Jarecki's investigative documentary probing our nation's futile war on drugs is so similar in tone and intent to HBO's acclaimed series that fans of the defunct television program will want to take a look.
  16. Reviewed by: Farran Smith Nehme
    Oct 5, 2012
    75
    The evidence Jarecki amasses against the drug wars in The House I Live In is more than strong enough to withstand any excess rhetorical zeal.
  17. Reviewed by: Kevin Jagernauth
    Oct 4, 2012
    75
    While it's messily put together, with a sprawling and at times unfocused narrative that often gets in the way of itself, it doesn't deny the power of the facts Jarecki brings to bear on a misguided program that hasn't stopped the demand for drugs, that has disenfranchised the poor and minorities, and created an expensive prison industry.
  18. Reviewed by: Andrew Schenker
    Oct 1, 2012
    75
    The mixture of different techniques and varied views results in a rich, multi-faceted look at one of America's most misguided policy initiatives.
  19. Reviewed by: Melissa Anderson
    Oct 2, 2012
    70
    What's riveting and attention grabbing in Jarecki's recapitulations of failed policy are some of the talking heads he has assembled, including "The Wire" creator David Simon and historian Richard Lawrence Miller.
  20. Reviewed by: Peter Debruge
    Oct 1, 2012
    70
    A ballsy mix of interviews and editorializing that's daring enough to question a costly crackdown that has long had the public's support.
  21. Reviewed by: Mark Jenkins
    Oct 5, 2012
    60
    The House I Live In shows Nannie Jeter as she hopefully watches Barack Obama's 2008 electoral victory, but doesn't analyze the current president's apparent reluctance to significantly alter anti-drug policies.
  22. Reviewed by: Elizabeth Weitzman
    Oct 4, 2012
    60
    As is, the film is more likely to impress the choir than change many minds.
  23. Reviewed by: David Fear
    Oct 2, 2012
    60
    Whenever the film focuses more on Jarecki's hand-wringing than deconstructing the war itself, you wish someone would have looked the filmmaker in the eye and just said no.
  24. Reviewed by: Peter Rainer
    Oct 5, 2012
    58
    Jarecki's thesis is that law enforcement targets minority communities, but his analysis is far too simplistic. Since when did pushers become victims?
User Score
7.8

Generally favorable reviews- based on 11 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 2
  2. Negative: 0 out of 2
  1. Oct 17, 2012
    5
    It's a good documentary in that there are so many issues addressed therein that require examination (and often indignation), but it goes a bit too far and fails to even posit alternatives. I love that they highlight the difference in sentencing guidelines between powder and crack cocaine. Completely asinine, even if you don't believe that it's targeting non-whites. The other issue that I feel is huge is the manipulation of federal housing assistance - ex-cons were denied housing assistance for all but the "red" zones on the city maps - essentially the ghettos. What was not discussed in this film was exactly how the experts would deal with drug dealers in absence of jail sentences. And when the son of the Columbia professor says that he can't raise 2 kids on $8 an hour, the father should have said, "YES, YOU CAN!..... It's a start! Get 2 jobs paying $8 each, and make your dollars last!" It seems that personal accountability is not given enough weight in the discussion. And comparing the US war on drugs to the Holocaust was disgusting. I know there are elements in common between genocide and marginalizing a group of people for actually doing wrong (buying and using drugs), but David Simon (who I love from "the Wire") goes too far when he suggests that the US policy is becoming "Kill the Poor." Hard-working poor folks who don't commit crimes? Those are the people killed in Germany, Poland, Cambodia, and Russia. They don't go to prison and get killed in the U.S. It's a bridge too far, and takes away from many of the valuable lessons of the film. Full Review »
  2. Sep 15, 2013
    9
    It's amazing that this documentary film has received only one user review so far. And a pretty negative one at that.

    First, let me say that
    I am an observer from way across the Atlantic Ocean, but since the American view on things often seem to somehow find its way over here in one way or another, I was still mighty interested.

    To be honest, I started watching this film expecting an analysis of the American prison system, but it is far more than just that. It is about their "war on drugs" throughout the last 100 years, the curtain of politics and laws thrown up around it, and the effects that it now has on the American society. Yes, we are talking about developments that started during the early years of the 20th century, when the use of certain drugs was first made illegal. The reasons behind this, which are given around halfway during the film, are actually pretty shocking to say the least.

    Note that there was a time when the use of opium, even cocaine and heroin were considered useful and good in many ways, similar to alcohol, caffeine and nicotine nowadays. There are parts of a 1995 WHO study (specifically the use of cocaine) which provide a very interesting read on this subject.

    Although the film does trace its roots back to almost a century ago, it mostly focuses on the situation as it has developed during the last 30-40 years. It talks about the rigorous laws that have come into effect (e.g. with heavy minimum sentencing and extreme multiple strike laws), how they came to be (e.g. by presidents using popular catchphrases, with Nixon as an unexpected exception to the rule), and how these laws are actually pushing entire families into a negative spiral of drug abuse and criminality instead of keeping them out of it. In the last few minutes, as mentioned by another reviewer, it even goes so far as to compare the developments during this "war on drug(user)s" to those during the "war on jews" (i.e. the holocaust). Accurate as this comparison may be, it feels as if the filmmaker is looking for a bit of shock value here, which does not match the perfectly neutral view he manages to maintain during the rest of the documentary, even when it comes to racial issues. Because that is where its strength actually lies.

    "The House I Live In" is such an astoundingly good documentary because it manages to provide such an excellent, neutral overview of an incredibly sophisticated, deeply rooted and yet greatly ignored problem. It presents views from all different directions, be it a drug addicts' heartbroken mother who herself has a very troubled history, a stereotypical prison ward who feels he was born for his job, or a college professor who managed to escape the system and is now doing the best he can to keep his son out of it. Everyone gets a word, and the surprising fact is that everyone agrees that the "war on drugs" is not the right way to fight this fight.

    In the end, this film does not provide anyone with a ready solution; it merely observes the situation. It gives you plenty of room to make your own opinion on the matter, despite the fact that, as mentioned, there are some graphic analogies made towards the conclusion of the film which somewhat force you into a specific direction. But luckily, the documentary shows that there is some light at the end of this dark tunnel: after decades and decades of failure, more and more people are realising that the current system does not work, and that some things desperately need to change.

    By the way, be "warned" that every topic is discussed in a fair but somewhat frank manner; African Americans are just referred to as blacks, people are shown dealing and actually doing drugs, some actual imagery from the holocaust is shown. No euphemisms here. This is an adult documentary about adult themes. But it has one important lesson which is especially important for younger people, those who are the future: do not ever let anyone tell you that some group of people is bad or less than you in any way.
    Full Review »