Salem, New Hampshire appears idyllic from the outside. Beautiful fall colors blanket the landscape, and the town resembles a picture-perfect snapshot of suburban bliss. But this façade masks a trauma that festers in plain sight. The searing documentary Hometown exposes the crippling effects of the opioid epidemic in this small town and others surrounding it.

A grieving mother speaks of her dead son’s valiant efforts to overcome the disease of addiction. We learn about her boy’s hopes and dreams, the setbacks that led to his downfall, and his mother’s powerlessness to keep drugs from eating away at her son like a fatal virus.

A detective pulls over yet another drug offender in another segment of the film. He longs for a return to the environment in which he grew up. We meet another life-long resident who no longer walks the streets of his hometown surrounded by the comforts of the familiar; he now must contend with the pleas of desperate addicts longing for their next fix.

Like most small towns across America, Salem and nearby Lawrence, Massachusetts were built on the traditions of the generations that came before. The towns have suffered their share of challenges in the past. The heroin epidemic took hold in the 1980s when the textile mills closed up shop or moved away. Economic depression has doomed these towns to a similar fate today.

We see local police as they interact with the diseased. There’s barely anyone the epidemic doesn’t touch in town, and the police are empathetic to the lost souls who do battle with this insidious beast. Around 85% of the arrests they make each month are related to opiate abuse, and the epidemic is responsible for as many as 500 deaths a year. Many of these victims are young people who once embraced lives of vitality and promise. Prescription opiates are the new alcohol for rebellious and experimental teenagers. When money and resources are tight, habitual users often turn to the cheaper alternative of heroin.

Featuring a string of candid and raw testimonials, and accented by inventive multi-colored animations, Hometown is powerful and profound.

Directed by: Brandon Lavoie

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