Reviewed by: Jennie Kermode

"Flitting between the agonies of trying to be socially appropriate, real violence and frantic comedy, Homewrecker is a fast paced, character-driven film that will follow you around until you give it all of your attention." | Photo: Industry Standard Films

It's often described as an English disease - that desire to avoid conflict at all costs and be scrupulously polite now matter how outrageously someone else is behaving - but Zach Gayne's Homewrecker shows that Americans are by no means immune to it. Our heroine, Michelle (Alex Essoe), is a shy young woman from the class-taking classes. She works as an interior designer, she's engaged to an older man whom she texts frequently, and she takes classes in just about anything that might improve her body and mind. It's at one of these that she meets Linda (Precious Chong), who rescues her when her period starts unexpectedly. Having to ask strangers for a tampon is one of those awkwardly intimate situations that most women handle by being polite and sympathetic but immediately step back from afterwards, behaving as if it never happened. Linda, however, takes the opportunity to treat Michelle like her new best friend.

Is she just lonely? Michelle is grateful to her and feels bad about the idea of pushing her away when they meet again in a café, even though she had gone there to work. Somehow she ends up agreeing to go to Linda's house in order to appraise it from a professional perspective. Once she's there, however, it becomes increasing apparent that Linda has no intention of letting her go.

Screening at the Fantasia International Film Festival, Homewrecker is a sharp witted, sharp-tongued black comedy with more going on than is immediately apparent. The presence of a giant hammer mounted on a wall (supposedly a reminder of how Linda has smashed her way through emotional problems to become the beacon of sanity that she is now) has Chekhovian implications but this is a film that loves to wrong-foot its audience and when things get physical they do so in gloriously uncoordinated, incompetent ways, reinforcing the sense that these are ordinary people caught up in something that could happen anywhere. Kitchen knives and clubs have their work cut out to be as frightening as Linda's choice in wallpaper.

The script, largely written by the two leads, plays with audience sympathies. Despite what she's doing, it's hard to see Linda as an out and out monster. She finds simple pleasure in having Michelle sit next to her on the couch whilst they watch Girls Just Want To Have Fun, enthusiastically (and incorrectly) identifying it as Shannen Doherty's first film. In another scene, where they play an absurd but almost believable Eighties video board game about dating, it becomes painfully obvious how her teenage dreams have floundered. Michelle, meanwhile, reveals a rich vein of spite as her nice person veneer begins to crack. This isn't just another film about a sweet young woman discovering that she can fight when she has to. Some of Linda's more unkind observations about her might have been accurate all along.

Flitting between the agonies of trying to be socially appropriate, real violence and frantic comedy, Homewrecker is a fast paced, character-driven film that will follow you around until you give it all of your attention. it's gleefully uncomfortable and very effective in teasing out the ways that women justify abusive and cruel behaviour, as well as the absurdity of the messages society sends them about how to get along. Gayne's technicolor palate lends it a manic edge and both leads are excellent, Chong naturally stealing the show but Essoe more than capable of holding her own in the less showy role. Homewrecker may well leave you feeling exhausted, but it's a hell of a ride.

Reviewed on: 27 Jul 2019
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A woman asks a stranger she meets at a yoga class to redecorate her home, then refuses to let her leave.

Director: Zack Gayne

Writer: Zack Gayne

Starring: Alex Essoe, Precious Chong

Year: 2019

Runtime: 74 minutes

Country: Canada

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