'Homecoming' review: Discomfort is the theme that ties all 10 episodes of Julia Roberts' psychological thriller

Amazon Prime’s upcoming psychological thriller ‘Homecoming’ started off as a podcast co-hosted by show creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg


                            'Homecoming' review: Discomfort is the theme that ties all 10 episodes of Julia Roberts' psychological thriller

You have loved Julia Roberts as the prostitute with a heart of gold, a single mother determined to make a difference, a proud professor daring her students to think outside the box, a heartbroken woman traveling the world to curb her mid-life crisis, among many other things. However, you have seen nothing like Heidi Bergman, a former government employee trying to piece together the memories of a forgotten life. 

Amazon Prime’s upcoming psychological thriller 'Homecoming' started off as a podcast co-hosted by show creators Eli Horowitz and Micah Bloomberg and the show continues to recreate that form of narrative, relying heavily on conversations to move the plot forward. However, it would be unjust to not appreciate the visual treat - or nightmare - that the podcast has evolved into, one that makes you question everything from the government to your own sanity. 

'Homecoming' is about a secret government facility that seduces veterans with the promise of making them ready to live in the real world, having been cured of any PTSD or any bad memories from the war, while being trained to take on jobs when they are let out. A 'transitional support center', if you will. As shady as that sounds, the mind-bending visuals and background music does nothing to ease the viewers' discomfort and that is the best aspect of this show.  

Discomfort is the theme that unifies all 10 episodes of the premiere season – discomfort in knowing that there is much you do not know and not being a 100 percent certain about actually wanting to know it. You are on this journey of discovering the truth with two characters - Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham), who is trying to figure out exactly what went wrong at the Homecoming facility and Heidi, a waitress at a crummy diner, who is trying to make sense of what her life in the facility used to be.  

The puzzle pieces are put together by both of them almost simultaneously, even as the tension-inducing background music takes viewers through an anxiety-ridden journey towards the right answers. As it hops back and forth between flashbacks and the present, the retro-esque visuals offer a sense of uneasiness. This retro-ness seems to have become the norm for psychological thrillers. Case in point - Netflix's 'Maniac'.

Stephan James as Walter Cruz and Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman in 'Homecoming' (Picture credit: Jessica Brooks)
Stephan James as Walter Cruz and Julia Roberts as Heidi Bergman in 'Homecoming' (Picture credit: Jessica Brooks)

The mystery begins with Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a young military veteran who is eager to rejoin civilian life. To this end, he is open-minded about the whole 'Homecoming' process, trusting his caseworker Heidi wholeheartedly – more so than his friends. The answers start with him, but more importantly, the questions do too.

The whole show is a series of conversations – starting with Walker and Heidi – loosely strung together. Whether it is interrogation or threats sugarcoated with a pep talk, the conversations between various characters bring to light the sinister chain of events that happened in the 'Homecoming' premises.

In piecing together one piece of the puzzle after another very steadily, lies the success of the show. Sam Esmail, of 'Mr. Robot' fame, shows off his brilliance by taking the call to keep this drama, uncharacteristically 30 minutes long. While it is unheard of, stretching it any longer would leave have bordered on boring, but this is the perfect size for a 10-episode binge marathon. The narration, too, is perfectly planned to make you want to watch it all at a go while inching closer and closer to the edge of your seat.  

Julia Roberts attends the 'Homecoming' premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 7, 2018, in Toronto, Canada. (Getty Images)
Julia Roberts attends the 'Homecoming' premiere during the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival at Ryerson Theatre on September 7, 2018, in Toronto, Canada. (Getty Images)
 

Roberts' performance is stellar, but that isn't much of a shocker. However, the fact is every actor matches up to the Oscar-winner's delivery, including James as the lovable and sweet-mannered Walter, Bobby Cannavale as Heidi's sleazy, misogynistic boss Colin, Carrasco as the unbelievably perseverant bureaucrat from the Department of Defense, whose refusal to take no for an answer despite being tossed around by everyone around him, makes him a true hero of justice and Alex Karpovsky’s Craig, whose admittedly devious character can only be described as patiently impatient. 

What do you get when you add A+ acting to an A+ script, A+ visuals, and A+ music? An A+ show. Come November 2, 'Homecoming' should be on top of your binge-watch list – if not for Robert’s brilliant performance, then for Esmail’s genius story-telling.