If you have recently lost your kitten and orchestra practice is driving you over the edge, you just might be Jessica (Esther Maria Pietsch), the lead character in Jakob M. Erwa’s psychological drama Homesick. When she and her partner Lorenz (Matthias Lier) move into their new home and Jessica is nominated to represent Germany at a prestigious classical music event, everything seems peachy. That changes as the pressure mounts, and she suspects her elderly neighbours have some vendetta against her.
The film waits until the halfway point for anything major to happen. Until then, it’s a lot of scene-setting and generational rifts, age being a prominent factor in Erwa’s script. A lot of the opening half an hour is Jessica’s elders expressing their disdain or telling her what to do - apart from her neighbour Hilde, who ends up bearing the brunt of Jessica’s spiralling paranoia. The first forty-five minutes or so will leave some twiddling their thumbs, but then maybe we’re to blame if arguments about wallpaper don’t do anything for us.
If the beginning is foreplay, then the second half wastes no time in getting down to business. After a tracking shot that could have come straight out of The Shining follows some blood upstairs, Jessica’s mind gives up on her almost entirely. Great care is taken in blending reality with illusion so you genuinely do not know until the very end who you should believe. It becomes far more tense and captivating.
It is in the film’s last moments that Maria Pietsch really shines, seemingly growing into her character as the film progresses. Jessica’s final degeneration is captured masterfully to the blood-pumping sound of J.S. Bach (what else?), and the film stops on a note no-one could expect. An uneventful opening is soon forgotten as you wrap your head around a very clever final scene, completed by one of the most darkly ironic onscreen dedication messages imaginable.
Homesick is not about keeping you up at night or making you hide behind the sofa. It is a dramatised but grounded depiction of what happens when stress becomes unbearable and the effects it has on everyone involved. It’s this reality that makes Homesick so chilling and that gives it an ominous flavour - this could very easily be your neighbour. It forgoes flamboyance and stylisation in favour of the basics; an ordinary couple subjected to ‘unordinary’ things. It’s the fundamentals of a psychological thriller executed with precision and purpose.
Thought-provoking it is, and while perhaps it could have been more, Homesick is a fine watch. Disturbing but not unbelievable; a film of two halves that surpasses your expectations as it nosedives towards its violent conclusion.
HOMESICK / CERT: 15 / DIRECTOR: JAKOB M. ERWA / SCREENPLAY: JAKOB M. ERWA / STARRING; ESTHER MARIA PEITSCH, MATTHIAS LIER, TATJA SEIBT, HERMANN BEYER, JANUSZ CICHOCKI / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW