The pandemic has given rise to lockdown films all over the world. In India, we’ve seen films as diverse in mood and language as C U Soon in Malayalam and Neha Dhupia’s recent short film Step Up in Hindi. In-between there were the anthologies Paava Kadhaigal in Tamil and Unpaused in Hindi.
All these left us with mixed films. Netflix’s Homemade featuring just what the title promises—homemade quirky quickies shot entirely on home equipment, mostly phones—is promising but finally uninspired. The ambling array of stories left me confused. Some seemed way too casual. Other stories appear to be excessively self-conscious of the task on-hand to shoot a film manifesting the director’s inner feeling of desolation isolation and desperation during the lockdown.
The themes range from reverie to hallucination. In fact, the only really normal story was the one told by Gurinder Chadha about her twin children and husband in London lockdown about loss and pranking, brooding and gallivanting. It’s fun to watch. It’s real. Gurinder’s children are not acting.
Neither is the little girl in Nadine Labaki and Khalid Mouzanar’s Mayroun & The Unicorn, which is my favourite piece (can’t call it a story) in the anthology. Here a little girl, locked in a room during the lockdown, invents her own fairytale about captivity and rescue. I hope that the little girl in this story grows up to be an actress. She is a natural-born camera chameleon.
On the other hand, another film with a little girl as the central character in Natalia Beristáin Espacios turns the girl’s story into a kind of survival melodrama which is very strange because her mother is filming her child. In another story Casino, a quarantined man (Sebastian Schipper) gradually starts losing his mind, seeing and befriending his own double and his double. This is the only story that takes on the theme of psychological wreckage during the lockdown.
In another story Penelope, a man coping with the near-extinction of the population because of the pandemic tries to survive. The gradual breakdown and replacement of a toaster is an effective metaphor for domestic desolation.
One of my favourite actresses Kristen Stewart tries to keep her mind from cracking up after many sleepless nights during the lockdown. While she does capture the monstrous monotony of the lockdown, Kristen can’t keep the story from getting monotonous.
There are very few perky engaging stories in this collection. Most of them had no business being made. Not when the mind had gone on freeze.
Homemade gets 2 and a half stars!
Image source: Netflix