Homecoming review – Catherine Corsini’s tragic family drama misses an inner life
Despite plenty of incidental action, Corsini’s film about a woman’s painful return to Corsica leaves too many questions unanswered
Despite some warm and sympathetic performances and lovely cinematography, there is something weirdly glib in director and co-writer Catherine Corsini’s new film in which a summer of drama gives us supposedly tragic personal discoveries uneasily coexisting with some almost photo love-style holiday romance.
Khedidja (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna) is a black woman in her 40s living in Paris with her two teen daughters – promising student Jess (Suzy Bemba) and tearaway Farah (Esther Gohourou) – and working as a nanny for a wealthy white couple, Sylvia (Virginie Ledoyen) and Marc (Denis Podalydès), who have little kids. Marc also has a spoilt moody teen daughter (Lomane de Dietrich) from his first marriage. Sylvia and Marc are heading off with their family for the summer to their villa in Calvi, Corsica and they desperately need Khedidja to come on holiday with them to deal with the children; Khedidja is allowed to bring Jess and Farah and they will all be put up, not in the villa, but (a little high-handedly) in a mobile home nearby.
For Khedidja this is a painful homecoming; she once lived in Corsica, and had to leave when her girls were just infants. There is a tense flashback scene that starts the film, with all three preparing to get on a ferry and Khedidja receiving a devastating call on her mobile. However, her reasons for wanting to leave the island, and what happened to Jess and Farah’s dad are not satisfyingly explained in emotional detail, despite an accumulation of hints, the discovery of Jess and Farah’s grandmother and a final, elaborate flashback scene showing Khedidja’s wedding. For me, the film never really delivers on its tacit promise of showing us Khedidja’s inner life, and what this place and her homecoming means to her.
What it does instead is give us quite a bit of melodramatic incidental action: romantic interludes all round, one frankly peculiar attempt at suicide, a protracted party scene in which the taking of ecstasy inevitably leads to the appearance of an ambulance and frowning paramedics. The performances are very strong, and there’s a great sisterly relationship between Bemba and Gohourou; they deserved a more substantial story.