As the title suggests this story centres mainly around one weekend. Two brothers Marco (Lars Eidinger) and Jakob (Sebastian Zimmler) return to their parent’s beautiful house in the countryside after an invite, believing it to be a rare family get together. Their father announces he is selling his publishing house before the e-books take over and to focus on writing his own book, Marco himself a successful writer. But soon their mother Gitte (beautifully played by Corinna Harfouch) has her own announcement to make; she has stopped taking her medication that she has been on for 30 years for what appears to be manic depression. Immediately her sons and husband begin to worry, the dead silence after her declaration saying everything. What follows is a subtly compelling drama where this supposedly positive step acts as a catalyst for the underlying family problems to come to the surface and tension mounts as Gitte leaves the house on her own, unmedicated and therefore, in the eyes of her family, unpredictable.
With some brilliant naturalistic performances, Home for the Weekend is an engaging drama about family dynamics with a lingering sense of unease throughout. As the film progresses we learn of Jakob’s struggling dental practice, funded by his father, his financial worries and his concerns for his mother exposing his dark side, perhaps even the same illness his mother suffers from. Truths become uncovered and perceptions and patronisations of mental illness are delicately depicted. The narrative takes an interesting turn, offering a rather surprising conclusion which feels rather anticlimactic due to our distance from the characters. Director Hans-Christian Schmid chooses to remain at arm’s length from the characters, never revealing much about Gitte and only giving us brief glimpses of the sons and her husband’s true personalities, focusing rather on the facades that people put up. Whilst this is interesting, particularly when it is the facades of the non-mentally ill that we are examining, we never become truly attached to the characters, resulting in a plateau of emotions.
It is this emotional flatness that is both frustrating and fascinating though and this film gradually gets under your skin. Before anything has even happened to their mother, the family are anticipating danger, and the film successfully depicts this anticipatory atmosphere. The two brothers and their distance are the strongest element of this film and both actors do a superb job of saying so much with few words. It is what is bubbling away under the surface that is the main theme of this film, be it mental illness, a desire to be free of drugs, despair at a failing business, or hidden aspects of our lives and this is a compelling aspect of human beings. The film effectively brings these issues to the surface but it never really reaches a satisfying close, the characters all too accepting of what happens.
This is an interesting journey with enough compelling atmosphere created to draw the audience in but not quite enough depth of character is revealed for emotional investment. Some great performances but an anticlimactic ending means the sense of unease remains, a lingering shot of the house and car at the end providing a sense of an ominous conclusion that the plot lacks.
Director: Hans-Christian Schmid
Writer: Bernd Lange
Stars: Lars Eidinger, Corinna Harfouch and Sebastian Zimmler
Runtime: 85 mins