HOMESICK screened as part of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival. For more information, head here.
I love Scandinavian films simply for their crisp beauty, and Homesick is no exception. However, the almost poetic beauty is marred (or enhanced, depending on how you look at it) because this is a love story between two half-siblings. It goes without saying, but incest is a taboo topic (or completely outrageous, if we’re talking about Flowers in the Attic). Still, director Anne Sewitsky skillfully crafts a woeful and passionate love story that tests and strains the concept of family and acceptable love.
Charlotte (Ine Wilmann) is a children’s dance instructor. She’s all light and softness, always wearing her hair in a top-bun and some sort of warm, fluffy sweater. Her bright, expressive eyes and warm smile are contagious, but occasionally the happy facade will slip, and uncertainty and anxiety breaks through. Her father is dying and she doesn’t feel like her mother ever loved her enough. Not happy with her own family as a child, she found a new family with her best friend, Marte, who just got married. Charlotte is happily dating Marte’s brother and things couldn’t be more perfect, and then–cue the “Dun, dun, dun!”–Charlotte’s mysterious half brother, Henrik (Simon J. Berger), shows up out of the blue one day. At first Charlotte reaches out further out of curiosity, for here is a brother she never knew. But soon that curiosity gives way to sexual desire and before long, Charlotte and Henrik are involved in an electric affair.
The script doesn’t spend too much time on exposition and we’re left to infer much about Charlotte and her personality. Her speech at Marte’s wedding reveals how her relationship with her best friend might be clingy and bordering on obsessive, with her wanting to literally be Marte. Henrik’s first interaction with Charlotte is when he tells her to stop lurking outside his home and she just laughs nervously, but doesn’t deny it so we can only assume that she somehow found out where he lived and then went peeking into his windows. We know from a discussion with her therapist that she doesn’t feel attached to her mother and her dying father was an alcoholic. She’s searching desperately for family and love … and finds it in Henrik.
It’s difficult to get over the wrong-ness of the fact that Charlotte and Henrik are related. I know it’s an actual occurrence in society (often enough that there’s a term for it: GSA or genetic sexual attraction), but it still didn’t stop me from feeling uncomfortable. I mean, can you blame me? I can’t help but wonder, though, if Charlotte hadn’t been desperate for familial love, would it have gone that far with Henrik?
Homesick has its slower moments and at times the script can be a bit lacking, but it’s kept arresting through an amazing performance by Wilmann. With an awkward smile, Wilmann is able to convey an intense sadness lurking just beneath the surface—a broken, insecure person pretending to be happy, trying to be happy. It was hard not to take your eyes off of her. And of course that gorgeous cinematography and thoughtful use of natural light played off of that, making her seem even more ethereal at times.
If you can come to terms with the incest (hard, I know, as it’s the whole point and all), Homesick is really a movie about longing for a home, for love, and how far you’d go to get it.
Siân Melton is covering Sundance for us live from Park City, Utah. Read about her other work, including her Toronto-based film series The MUFF Society, below.