Fantastic Fest 2021 – Homebound

By Naomi Roper

Holly (Aisling Loftus) and Richard (Tom Goodman-Hill) are newlyweds. They’ve kept their recent nuptials a secret from Richard’s children. Holly is understandably incredibly nervous about meeting Richard’s three kids for the first time. Upon arrival at Richard’s former remote home in the English countryside, Holly is concerned at the fact that Richard’s ex Nina isn’t there to greet them. Things are weird from the start, Richard goes way too far trying to be the “cool dad” letting teens Lucia (Hattie Gotobed) and Ralph (Lukas Rolfe) and youngest Anna (Raffiella Chapman) get drunk on champagne and vodka at Anna’s birthday party, a party for which Nina never shows. No one but Holly seems to be concerned about Nina’s continuing absence. Meanwhile, Richard is acting increasingly oddly and his children are becoming far more aggressive with Holly. Where is Nina and why is Richard’s behaviour with his three children so intense and bizarre?

Eerie, discordant and disturbing Homebound is a short, sharp, nasty homecoming drama. Written and directed by Sebastian Godwin it has this surreal, dreamlike, quality to it as if the events in Nina’s home are taking place just outside of everyday reality. 

It’s also the sort of movie they should show at self-defence classes. Everything is WRONG from the second Holly arrives. My favourite scene in David Fincher’s adaptation of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo is the moment where Daniel Craig wanders into the house of someone he strongly suspects is a serial killer and has a drink out of sheer politeness. We all stay in situations we shouldn’t out of politeness or a desire to de-escalate a situation. Women especially. Holly should be out the door the second she realises Nina hasn’t shown up for her own daughter’s birthday party. She should definitely leave as soon as Richard starts acting strangely and disrespecting her wishes. And the microsecond the kids start aggressively telling her to leave and start being violent towards her she should be out of that door so quick she’d give Road Runner a run for his money. But she stays, out of confusion, out of politeness, out of love, out of worry for the children and gets trapped in hell as a result.

Hattie Gotobed & Lukas Rolfe are suitably creepy as the teenagers and Tom Goodman-Hill does well with a very tricky character. Loftus is the beating heart of the film and I was so scared for her even as I was screaming for her to leave. 

The film’s central mystery keeps the audience guessing and even at the end I wasn’t quite sure what had happened. Given most genre films telegraph their ending a few minutes in the film’s ability to sustain its central mystery was impressive.

Unsettling and dripping with dread Homebound is a distressing look at a very odd family with excellent performances from its small cast.

Homebound had its world premiere at Fantastic Fest 2021