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Rachel (Kate Reed) and her mother Carol (Jemma Churchill) sit bedside holding vigil over Philip (Richard Ginn). They aren’t waiting to see when he will die, he is in fact dead. They are sitting, waiting, doing everything that can, to entice the dead father back to life with poems, preparations for celebrations, and continuing on about their day as if his return were imminent.
Recently screened at Screamfest in Hollywood, California, Home Education is an elegant mood piece that entertains while not always circling back to answer the questions it raises. While father lays dead, decomposing upstairs, Carol dictates teachings to her daughter. Rachel studiously scribbles down the nonsensical, germaphobic reasonings of her agoraphobic mum’s circuitous reasonings on life, death, decomposition and so forth. It isn’t until Rachel decides to go out into the forest for a walk that she learns more about what is going on upstairs.
Reed’s portrayal of Rachel has a supple tenderness that does little to hide her tenacity. In the meantime Churchill’s portrayal of Carol is stubborn, pig-headed, and strangely terrifying. Beautifully shot, the film has a Gus Van Sant elegance to it. Unfortunately the short also features Van Sant’s penchant for cut aways and seemingly unrelated symbolisms. These really aren’t all that bad, but they are the things one is left with, instead of the meaning of the film.
Thankfully, the strong performances, the accomplished filmmaking, and the brooding photography make ‘Home Education’ a short with watching, even making time for.