Firstly, I’d just like to say thank you to Writer/Director, Andrea Niada for allowing me early access to an online screener of his 24 minute, Horror/Drama short, “Home Education”. Home Education centers around a family living in an isolated home in the English countryside. Carol, the domineering mother (played by Jemma Churchill) and her curious daughter, Rachel (Kate Reed) have been keeping their husband/father’s corpse (Richard Ginn) in the upstairs attic. The two firmly believe that if they show how much they care for him, he’ll no doubt come back to life. I was fortunate enough to be contacted by Andrea and asked if I wanted to watch and review the film and me being me, said yes (I’ll watch anything). A while back I’d heard a couple of things about a short he’d made called “Wasteworld” but I never actually saw it, so this is officially my introduction to his work.
The film opens with the reading of a poem from daughter to father, only problem being, the man of the house is clearly deceased. It’s not until the dynamics of the relationship between the mother and daughter surface, that you actually get some insight into why these two have hope for their loved ones return. I knew very little about Home Education heading in but it didn’t take long for me to get a sense of the tone of Niada’s film, reminiscent of “Der Bunker” *see review* https://adamthemoviegod.com/der-bunker-review/. It’s an interesting story with specifics you’re not entirely sure what to make of, which both hinders it somewhat but intrigues the viewer on some level. From the outset, the dialogue audio is crisp and clear and the top-notch cinematography drives the high production value. To an outsider, the cottage seems warm and quaint, when in actual fact it’s anything but. There’s an array of lovely shot choices on display and all the framing is expertly handled. The highlight is a smooth but brief tracking shot as Rachel moves toward her father’s bedside. I also really enjoyed the external scenes in the woods near the house, they looked excellent. Andrea’s got an eye for sharp editing. All the still frames and establishing shots run the perfect duration, allowing you to relish in the uniqueness of this families situation and the oddities of the house.
Andrea and his music department managed to create quite an eerie score to accompany the strange narrative. The score is mostly made up of bass and violin drives, but as the mystery escalates, the bass notes are used to effectively accent that enigma. The performances from both Churchill and Reed are very solid and not really what I expected from an indie film, particularly from someone as raw and young as Kate Reed. Her reaction time was natural, and when required, the intense communication between her and Churchill was dominant. Richard Ginn is as important to Home Education as our two female leads. Now while he doesn’t have any dialogue, he’s able to stay perfectly still in each of his scenes (which isn’t easy). There’s a lot of peculiar behavior going on in the household, what to make of it all is left up to the viewers interpretation. Carol is an intense figure whose trying her best to educate Rachel the only way she knows how, through fear tactics and paranoid perceptions. There’s a clear obsession with dead animals, they’re on display throughout the house and she’s constantly concerned with dust particles and fleas and how they operate and how one counters them to prevent a spate.
There were a couple of finer points that I didn’t quite follow but that’s common in films with heavy symbolism. There were a handful of small details that didn’t quite add up. For instance, Carol appears to be using a hammer at one point to prepare some meat, I’m not sure if that was intended or if it was just another bizarre occurrence. The scenes involving Rachel throwing a bone didn’t seem to have any real relevance either, well none that I could find. Was it her way of attracting food in the forest? I didn’t get it. Even when she does find what can only be described as “remains”, she picks them up, puts them to her ear and tries to listen to them. I couldn’t work out what she was listening for or how it would determine what she would take home for her father to try to resurrect/please him.
Home Education made for an interesting introduction to Andrea Niada’s work, it reminded me somewhat of films like Robert Eggers, “The Witch” and Philip Ridley’s, “The Reflecting Skin”, at least in terms of its unsettling atmosphere. All the technical aspects are well conceived but it’s the striking cinematography and suspenseful score that eventually won me over. The editing is smooth and the run time ideal for something like this (take note Mr Eggers). The performances are the best part of Home Education and I can definitely see a bright future on the cards for young Kate Reed. Not everything here translated as clearly as I would’ve liked and some of the particulars seemed redundant but even with that, Home Education is very much a breath of fresh air and for those that like the obscure works of David Cronenberg (as well as the aforementioned films), best keep an eye out for this one soon!
My rating for “Home Education” is 8/10