Writer-director Catherine Corsini helms an uneven drama about a woman who returns to Corsica with her two teenage daughters
Catherine Corsini’s Homecoming has been the subject of some controversy in the lead-up to its premiere in this year’s Cannes competition. Anonymous sources alleged that the director bullied crew members, causing several to walk out, while others stated that she failed to safeguard the young actors, particularly in scenes of a sexual nature. The festival investigated the allegations and found no wrongdoing, allowing her to compete – but given, well, the Cannes-ness of it all, we can’t really be sure if this was the right decision, or what really happened. It was only this month that Adèle Haenel stated that Cannes is “ready to do anything to defend their rapist chiefs.”
Irregardless of what may or may not have taken place on set, Corsini’s drama is an entirely uncontroversial, frequently predictable and rather safe affair, following Khédidja (Aïssatou Diallo Sagna), a fortysomething single mother, and her two daughters Jessica (Suzy Memba) and Farah (Esther Gohourou), as they spend one summer in Corsica with the family Khédidja childminds for in Paris. It’s a tricky one for her: childminding over the holidays will bring in more income, but it will be a trip that is fraught with bad memories. She had to leave the island fifteen years ago with her young daughters under tragic, mysterious circumstances.
The film works better as a coming-of-age tale of two sisters, as opposed to the more esoteric and impenetrable woes of their mother; larger issues like racism, nationalism and social hierarchy are referenced fleetingly and then abandoned for other narrative strands, often giving the feeling that the film isn’t really “about” anything at all. Memba and Gohourou are both remarkable actors who enliven the project, however; Memba exhibits impressive control and poise as the queer young girl who seems embarrassed by her own existence, intelligence and identity, while Gohourou is entirely charming and natural as the younger sister determined to stand up for herself and write her own adventures.
This family’s titular homecoming is given a biblical weight – as much is assumed by the rather ill-suited choral score – but we fail to tangibly feel why this re-crossing is so important, as Khédidja’s motives and feelings are so inscrutable. An eleventh-hour flashback does little to rectify this. There’s a certain uncanniness to all these half-memories, this sense of semi-belonging, and the larger question the film seems to want to ask is: what is home, and can it be given to you? But an emotional final scene feels unearned, and a feeling prevails that we’ve been held at arm's length for too long to understand the weight of what we’re watching. Thankfully, we care enough about the daughters to stick it out to the end.
Homecoming was screened as part of the Cannes Film Festival 2023. A UK release date is yet to be announced.Where to watch