Cinema/TV, Film Notes

FrightFest review – Homebound (2021)

My notes on Homebound (2021)

The set-up of Homebound has a touch of 1970s TV about it, which could lead either to a creepy kid episode of an anthology show like Thriller or Menace or a drama about a fractured family as seen by a clueless incomer suitable for the Wednesday Play slot.  Writer/director Sebastian Godwin straddles both approaches throughout a small-scale, 75-minute piece which signs off with an ambiguous, folks-stare-at-something-offscreen revelation that isn’t exactly subtle (we know what is being implied) and still begs a hell of a lot of questions.  It’d be possible to make a prequel that builds up to the big event whose aftermath resonates here, and still generate quite a bit of suspense and surprise with the outcome.

Naïve young townie Holly (Aisling Loftus) is newly married to older, country-bred Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill, who has the most untrustworthy beard in British film and TV).  He takes her to his country home for a weekend and a child’s birthday.  She’s never met his former wife Nina or his three kids – Lucia (Hattie Gotobed), Ralph (Lukas Rolfe) and birthday girl Anna (Raffiella Chapman) – and he hasn’t told them that he’s remarried.  At the remote, impressive house, Richard gets a huffy text from Nina saying she’s gone off and the children are looking after themselves, and the kids are traditionally sullen, hostile, winsome and secretive.  Richard is happy to accept thin explanations while himself coming across as deeply suspect, excusing the kids’ understandable but excessive rudeness and seething with the sort of incipient violence that might explain why his first marriage broke up … though he also hints darkly at Nina’s smothering, controlling behaviour and possibly diabolical cunning.  So it’s down to Holly to keep pointing out how wrong things are, even as her husband keeps undercutting her with his children – and ominous incidents, like her shock at the rest of the family being happy to kill a goose for dinner, prompt her to worry even more that the weekend break is liable to end very badly.  Which it does, sort of …

It’s nicely acted by the Turn of the Screw/Innocents-type kids, with Gotobed and Rolfe in the Miles role and Chapman playing Flora (though another Jack Clayton film, Our Mother’s House, also comes to mind).  The tradition of posh country folk being sinister rather than comical is carried on, though this is in the end  much more an exercise in unease than shock.

Here’s the FrightFest listing.


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