Now that television has risen in status enough to cast big names like Tom Hardy (Taboo, 2017) and Amy Adams (Sharp Objects, 2018), Julia Roberts has made her TV debut in Sam Esmail’s psychological thriller Homecoming. Airing on Amazon late 2018, Homecoming is perhaps the most visually astounding show of the year.
Roberts perfectly encapsulates the strong-willed yet conflicted caseworker Heidi Bergman. In limbo between what Heidi wants to believe and what is actually true, Roberts achieves a perfect balance of determination, optimism, regret and internal strife. Her iconic, charming smile reminds us of Heidi’s innocent naivety, whilst preventing her disciplined, workaholic traits manifesting into dull, hollow character. The story follows Heidi treating war veterans in a therapeutic facility called Homecoming. However, parallel to ex- soldier Walt’s recovery is the present-day, where the Department of Defense investigates Homecoming’s sketchy motives.
With a Hitchcockian approach to geometric precision, cinematographer Tod Campbell crafts every shot with acute detail. You don’t have to be a film (or in this case, TV) buff to appreciate Campbell’s beautiful aesthetics. Controlled symmetry reigns throughout the series, but not just to look pretty. The tight camerawork and lengthy still shots echo the facility’s eerily pristine architecture. Esmail utilizes the screens aspect ratio in innovative ways- not only to tackle the technical aspects of conveying time frame, but also in reflecting Heidi’s state of mind and points of anagnorisis.
Despite Homecoming’s fractured chronology and multiple narrative strands, Esmail manages to guide the audience with ease through clean, clever camerawork. Underpinning the narrative is the combat of Heidi’s morals, as well as the responsibility powerful institutions to not exploit vulnerable members of society. Recurring motifs and a efficient distribution of information keep us on our toes, whilst the short run-time of each episode teases us to watch just one more.
It’s a shame Amazon is one of the weaker streaming platforms, rendering less recognition that Homecoming deserved- or certainly would have received on outlets such as Netflix. Both the acting and filmmaking of Homecoming is beyond commendable. Esmail achieves a height of originality, not just through an interesting plot but creative methods of storytelling.