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Friday, October 8, 2021

[Fantastic Fest Review] ‘Homebound’ Is a Slight But Tension-Filled Domestic Thriller

Meeting your significant other’s family for the first time is a social scenario ripe for mining anxiety and dread. Writer/Director Sebastian Godwin takes the familiar setup and packs it full of unsettling atmosphere and psychological tension. The small-scale domestic thriller may not forge new ground or offer a lot to chew on, but Homebound does keep you firmly in its grip throughout.

Holly (Aisling Loftus) is a bundle of nervous excitement as she accompanies her fiancé Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) on a trip to his ex-wife’s rural estate to meet his three children for the first time. They’ve been invited to spend time with the family and celebrate the birthday of Richard’s youngest daughter Anna (Raffiella Chapman). However, when Holly and Richard arrive, they find his ex-wife left Anna and teens Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) and Ralph (Lukas Rolfe) alone. The kids aren’t thrilled about a new stepmom barely older than they are and greet her with expected iciness. Tensions only mount the more Richard muddles the attempts to lighten the mood. So, too, do suspicions when Holly realizes something is seriously amiss.

Homebound relies on its characters and character interactions to fuel the increasingly palpable dread. It’s just five characters in a single location throughout the entirety of its brisk runtime, and Godwin takes a minimalistic approach to let the character work shine. Loftus is instantly winsome as the nervous stepmom stranded on her own while Richard gets overzealous with appeasing his children. When Holly expresses reticence or reservations, Richard openly shoots her down for the sake of playing the cool dad. When Ralph nearly drowns Holly during pool time, Richard fails to offer much support. It breeds animosity as it douses the flames of dread with gasoline. Richard repeatedly fails Holly, illuminating a source issue with this household fairly early. 

Yet, with a roughly 70-minute runtime, Homebound feels too slight in the narrative. It’s a simple story told well, and it packs in a couple of surprises in the final act, but the restraint in its execution hinders the impact. It’s perhaps a bit too simple; the setup is a familiar one which means that the minimalist approach can make it harder for Homebound to stand apart. It’s not action that propels the story forward but a sinister mood. While Godwin effectively crafts claustrophobic dread, the movie only roars to life when it stops playing coy and lets its characters tap into their ugly truths.

Godwin’s assured debut centers around a young woman ignoring all possible red flags out of worry, love, and a desperate need for family. Unlike many genre films of this ilk, Homebound’s protagonist is solely trapped in this eerie manor by her own sense of obligation. The more violence enters the question, Holly’s choices have a tendency to frustrate. Godwin attempts to distract through compelling character and tension-fueled mysteries. It’s anemic on narrative depth, but it’s engaging nonetheless. Through its mood-driven atmosphere, performances, and scant runtime, Homebound never overstays its welcome.



source https://bloody-disgusting.com/reviews/3686368/fantastic-fest-review-homebound-slight-tension-filled-domestic-thriller/

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