'Homemade' Review: Netflix's short film anthology delivers hits by women but could have been better paced
While three of the short films are excellent, many amateurs could have provided a far more moving experience with the same kind of resources
Many industries have been affected by the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, not to mention how the way we live life itself has transformed, and while we live in this limbo of not knowing whether we would go back to the old normal or continue living this new normal, cinematic narratives emerge from this historic and tragic time. As many productions went into shutdown, with countries around the world going into a lockdown to address the rising numbers of the COVID-19 infections, Netflix saw an opportunity and tasked 18 directors with imagining what filming could become in this "new world". So, 'Homemade' was born, an anthology of 17 short films from across the world, all of them having some relation to humanity's current condition.
While a few of the short films, all of which are women-led, are unarguably great, some have missed the mark. After all, while filming on phones with very few crew members may be new to many filmmakers of note, these techniques have been used and perfected by amateur filmmakers for years, the results of which we can easily watch on YouTube or Vimeo. Hence, what we expected from 'Homemade' were stories that stood out, that warranted special release on Netflix, unlike those of amateur filmmakers. While those by Maggie Gyllenhaal, Kristen Stewart, Ana Lily Amirpour among a few others were certainly worth that, others did not seem up to the mark.
Gyllenhaal's 'Penelope' starring her husband Peter Sarsgaard easily comes off as the best. Set in what seems to be a post-apocalyptic world, the sci-fi short film follows Sarsgaard's character's solitary life in a world where the unnamed virus has claimed over 500 million lives and even affects the earth's gravitational pull. Then there is Kristen Stewart's 'Crickets', which really proves that the actress has come way beyond her 'Twilight' days.
Stewart is undoubtedly a good actress, with 'Cricket', she tells her viewers that she knows how to tell a story with nothing more than a phone, herself in front (and behind) the camera, and a few friends to do post-production work.
It is Amirpour's 'Ride It Out' that really stands out. Of the 17 films, 'Ride It Out' comes in the end and forms a fitting close to Netflix's ambitious project. With nothing but an unidentified girl riding her bicycle through an empty Los Angeles, Amirpour captures the magnitude of the situation.
Many of the stories featured in 'Homemade' feature certain unique aspects but do not offer anything new when it came to short films. There might be a reason for this even if most of these films were helmed by award-winning filmmakers. Short films, like feature films, need to have a beginning, middle, and an end. However, with a feature film, the director has the time and space to set the pace and the environment, the luxury of which is not available for a short film. Some filmmakers handle this quite well, like Antonio Campos with his horror short, or Pablo Larrain with his comedy. Some of the short films even had a crisp and clear message for its viewers, like those of Ladj Ly, Rachel Morrison, Johnny Ma, and Gurinder Chadha. Others, however, may have been too abstract. Often, filmmakers forget they are making for an audience, employing techniques – even if they are great – that add nothing to the viewing experience.
If there's one thing 'Homemade' makes clear, it is that production houses may need to pay better attention to short filmmakers, especially amateurs who would have provided a far more moving experience with the same kind of resources.
'Homemade' is now available to watch on Netflix.