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Here is a short film anthology with a luxury gloss and prestige sheen, curated for Netflix by the Chilean director Pablo Larraín, his brother Juan de Dios Larraín and Italian producer Lorenzo Mieli. They invited 17 film-makers from around the world to make short films during lockdown about the theme of lockdown. Larraín himself contrives an amusing piece about an ageing lothario in a care home who contacts an old flame on Skype while his long-suffering nurse has to sit impassively in the background.
Some film-makers have stuck toughly to the spirit of lockdown, with lo-fi pieces shot on their smartphones within their own four walls. Sebastian Schipper creates something starring himself with TikTok-style visual gags about doppelgangers and triplegangers. Rungano Nyoni gives us a wacky comedy about the texting life of a separated couple forced to share a small flat. In his Rome apartment, Paolo Sorrentino quirkily imagines a love story between action figures representing the pope and the Queen, squabbling about what they want to watch on TV: The Two Popes or The Crown (both Netflix shows, as it happens).
Other directors have sneakily upgraded things a bit, with better cameras, flashy drone cinematography, remote post-production work and actors and technicians who have apparently been used in accordance with local rules about lockdown co-operation. A lot of the pieces are in the lightly fictionalised video-diary mode, with directors often amusingly – and touchingly – using their children, just as they might have roped in their siblings to be in the home movies they themselves made as kids.
My favourite film of the bunch is by Natalia Beristáin in Mexico City, who imagines her young daughter all alone in the world. And David Mackenzie in Glasgow has a smart, affectionate study of his family. Nadine Labaki’s daughter Meyroun is scarily precocious.
It has to be said that Netflix-league directors tend to be well off, so Homemade sometimes looks as if its purpose is to show us how lockdown is experienced by carefree rich people. There is a tendency to be precious: I worried when Rachel Morrison in Los Angeles eulogised her children and in a contrived tone of humility intones: “We have a roof over our head, a canyon in our backyard and a car to take us to remote destinations where the virus has not spread.” (Erm, aren’t we in Dominic Cummings territory, here?)
The drone maestro proves to be Ladj Ly, who effectively reprises the breathtaking drone sortie through the tough Parisian district of Montfermeil that he gave us in his feature Les Misérables. (It’s a literalist escape from lockdown, but effective.) Ana Lily Amirpour in Los Angeles uses drone shots to track the existence of a girl cycling through the near deserted streets. Sebastián Lelio has a quirky musical about being on your own. Kristen Stewart plays a version of herself, going quietly mad through insomnia and boredom; it’s indulgent, but the extreme closeups on her face are an actor’s masterclass in conveying sharply delineating changes in emotion. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s piece, starring her husband, Peter Sarsgaard, is the most ambitious on a narrative level, imagining the life of a reclusive man after some apocalypse who finds that the virus is affecting the laws of physics.
Homemade is a diverting but indulgent collection, and the experiences of genuine hardship don’t shine through very much.
• Homemade is available from 30 June on Netflix.
Source: The Guardian
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