Directed by Andrea Niada
Starring Kate Reed, Jemma Churchill, & Richard Ginn
Short Film Review by Chris Olson
A tense and thought-provoking drama/psychological thriller, Andrea Naida’s short film Home Education is a compelling piece about a daughter Rachel (Kate Reed) living with the death of her father (Richard Ginn). What is unusual about her situation is that her mother (Jemma Churchill) is convinced that as long as the pair of them continue to love and impress their father, whose body lies rotting on an upstairs bed, he will most likely come back to life. Rachel’s mother enforces a strict curriculum of important lessons for her daughter which will ensure she does not disappoint her dearly departed dad.
Disturbing and absurdist, without ever feeling farcical, Home Education is an absolutely enthralling short film. There is heightened tension throughout, two powerhouse performances, and a nightmarish atmosphere created through stark visuals and an eerie score, that are perfectly delivered by Naida. By focusing the story on a mother-daughter relationship, the emotional core is built very quickly, which is essential in allowing the tone of the movie to develop without hindrance into something more challenging for the viewer. We instantly connect with Rachel in particular, whose naivete and innocence, which gets manipulated by her mother, makes her completely endearing. The film then takes on some dark overtones as the mother’s increasingly disturbing behaviour becomes threatening, and Rachel faces a coming-of-age like no other girl has to experience.
The idea for the story is fantastic, and works really well as a short film. Its plot is strong enough to be entertaining for audiences by itself, but add in the thematically troubling elements which the story represents and you have something particularly special on your hands. For example [SPOILER ALERT], Rachel comes into her own strength in the latter end of Home Education, where she transcends the bondage of her mother’s “teachings”, representing the power of youth and its inevitable commencement through life which clears the way of people and ideals which have come before it [SPOILER ALERT END]. By focusing the story, and indeed even the title, on this idea of “education”, Niada combines elements of horror filmmaking within the assumed safety of a home and safe environment of learning. This contrast works brilliantly to highlight the tension of the film, the unspoken divide between the two main protagonists, whilst making a poignant commentary on the sometimes false presumption that our elders in society know what’s best.
Reed deliver an excellent onscreen performance as the film’s leading character. Her arc throughout the story is believable and tenderly done, allowing for some absolutely formidable moments later on. Churchill is brutally engaging, reminiscent of Kathy Bates in Misery at times, maintaining that important balance between intimidating but believable without venturing into cartoonish melodrama.
As mentioned previously in this film review, the atmosphere created in Home Education is palpable, and a great deal of credit is due to the score by composer Andrea Boccadoro. Music for horror films is often a tricky business. Too much foreboding and the whole thing feels heavy with darkness, too much plinky plonky keys and you feel like you’re watching a panto. Home Education benefits from a score which is completely in tune with the bulging tension that rides throughout, capturing the sense of intrigue that audiences will feel through the opening and middle sections, then capitalising on the momentum Naida builds by the end with perfect musical execution. It is wonderfully done.
Some of the creepy visuals may be off-putting for some audiences, especially given the difficult nature of the events unfolding alongside it. However, many will enjoy this combination which is brilliantly done. Fans of the horror or thriller genre will feel in their element with Home Education, a piece of filmmaking which tears others like it to shreds. It has an original story which is gripping and interesting, fantastic performances, and an overall aesthetic which is masterfully sculpted and delivered.