Something is alluring about Jakob M. Erwa’s HOMESICK. It’s a slow-burning psychological thriller that cautiously builds tension through the film’s 98-minute runtime. It’s hard not to draw parallels between HOMESICK and Roman Polanski’s THE TENANT and ROSEMARY’S BABY. No, HOMESICK isn’t a German reimagining of those films. Instead, Erwa channels Polanski’s ethos of filmmaking by keeping the audience in the dark about the main character’s actual state of mind.
HOMESICK follows Jessica and Lorenz as they move into a new apartment. Jess is a musician preparing for a competition in Moscow that she’s been selected to attend. Hilde, a neighbor and the unofficial apartment caretaker, gives Jess a very uneasy feeling. When Jess and Lorenz’s kitten goes missing, it sends Jess down a dark path where she questions the motives of Hilda and her husband. There are several occasions when Jess catches Hilda watching her through the window further deepening Jessica’s suspicions.
What draws the audience in is Erwa’s long, static shots. There are several scenes where the action is taking place off screen, the audience experiencing the film through the character’s dialogue. It may seem odd to use such a technique, but it only helps illustrate the psychological breakdown of the main character. Excellent sound design along with slow pans of the camera help build tension, but only when Erwa wants the audience to see what’s happening.
The acting in HOMESICK is superb. Esther Maria Pietsch sells Jessica’s increasing paranoia with expert precision. Tatja Seibt, who plays Hilde, is nothing short of spectacular. Her portrayal of the creepy caretaker only furthers the audiences’ uncertainty about whether Jess is correct in her assumptions of Hilde’s unsavory intentions while also coming off as a somewhat charming elderly neighbor. Matthias Lier who plays Lorzen and Jessica’s boyfriend doesn’t get in the way of the plot, helping to move it along without spewing exposition.
There’s little to dislike about HOMESICK. To some, the pace may feel like it’s creeping along at a snail’s pace. I can understand that sentiment. This feels like a movie that was made forty years ago. HOMESICK is claustrophobic, tense and tightly directed. Yes, the ending could divide audiences, but even with the slow pace, the enthralling characters and cinematography should keep even the antsiest viewer glued to the screen.
HOMESICK doesn’t do anything new in the psychological thriller space. Instead, Erwa takes the genre’s best attributes and weaves them into a beautiful and compelling story where you fall in love with the characters while trying desperately to figure out what exactly is driving Jessica’s paranoia. HOMESICK is a taut thriller that will leave audiences with more questions than answers.
HOMESICK is a compelling psychological thriller that is beautifully presented, well-acted, and worth your time.