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HomeSick (2015)



Ambitious cello student Jessica receives the invitation to an international contest. A great opportunity - but at the same time enormous pressure. Stress begins to gnaw on Jessica's everyday life and soon reality and imagination blur.


HomeSick is listed as a psychodrama/arthouse-thriller - and before watching I wasn't sure what I was going to get. Now I know, I think the description suits.

The film begins with Jessica and her partner Lorenz moving into a new apartment. He has a day job, and she is a budding cellist, having just be nominated to take part in an international competition. They're happy. In love. Things couldn't be better. On the first night in their new house, well after midnight, their loud music disturbs their neighbors who complain. And from there the nightmare begins.

Jessica begins to see the neighbors spying on her. Odd events occur. Jessica is scared, and the goosebumps appear. Lorenz sees none of it - and we, the audience become drawn into the nightmare.

From the beginning of the film something seems askew. The camera work obscures certain parts of the apartment, making it feel alien. Nothing feels...right. At one point within the movie I tried to work out the layout of the apartment and the neighbors apartment and where one window overlooks another didn't seem plausible. The walls are all off-white. The living space has no personality. The furnishings are sparse. I reminisced of The Shining in direction and set design, and Rosemary's Baby in feel.

And as Jessica becomes more frightened, it becomes apparent that she is the only one who can see it.

And by the midpoint, Jessica is sure that the neighbors are trying to get her and her partner to leave. And at this point I will leave the plot. No spoilers here.

With long drawn episodes of Jessica alone in the apartment, it falls to her to carry large parts of the film. Esther Maria Pietsch (Reality Check) does a relatively good job - she is expressive enough to engage with an audience without vocals - and she portrayed the character well. Matthias Lier (The Story of the Green Line) as Lorenz is the grounding for the tale. He is the non-believer, the voice of reason. He is very good as the "suffering" boyfriend, parrying each of Jessica's claims with a positive explanation. Outstanding performance must however go to Tatja Seibt (Dark), the neighbor upstairs - Hilde - the tormentor.

It's a clever film, for sure. It's setting is largely two rooms and a stairwell. It challenges the viewers expectation sneakily - events forgotten, suddenly becoming important. Most of that must go to the screenwriter and director, Jakob M. Erwa (Center of My World).

Having watched it I felt wrung-out. It's not a fun watch. It's taut and disturbing. The ending will likely leave you horrified, and wanting to fathom meaning. I know it's best to avoid the term horror these days for fear of alienating an audience. But this is horror - and it subverts the genre. In places it is mortifying. Others sickening. It's a hard watch. That doesn't make it less enjoyable, but some may find it too much come for the final act.

For those willing - or able - to confront the final act it is worth it. The twist is exceptionally well done, and I can usually guess them - this one I didn't see coming.

HomeSick is available today on DVD and VOD:  

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