As viewers, we all love a well-crafted and engaging story with amazing actors, beautiful cinematography to match, and, of course, Julia Roberts. If you don’t like Julia Roberts, you’re wrong. The new Amazon Prime original series, “Homecoming,” marks the actress’ first foray into episodic television and it delivers on all fronts.
Based on the podcast of the same name by Micah Bloomberg, and adapted by Sam Esmail (creator of “Mr. Robot”), “Homecoming” follows Heidi Bergman (Roberts) as her life is thrown into upheaval after leaving her job at the homecoming program, which is an institution designed to help young veterans re-adjust to civilian life upon returning from deployment. During her time at the institution, Heidi was assigned to work the case of Walter Cruz (Stephan James), a young veteran eager to get back into the swing of civilian life. He’s kind, charming, funny, and instantly clicks with his caseworker.
An unknown incident has gone down at homecoming, which has led to Heidi now working as a waitress. Enter investigator Thomas Carrasco (Shea Whigham) who, just like viewers, is trying to figure out what the heck happened. At the same time, there is Heidi’s boss from homecoming, Colin Belfast (Bobby Cannavale), a sleazy, dishonest, and manipulative businessman who’s only interested in protecting himself.
“Homecoming” does a great job of fleshing its characters – whether they’re regular, supporting, or guest stars. The writers have done very well, showing how each character has changed from past to present.
As Heidi, Roberts’ performance in was phenomenal in portraying a somewhat nervous, but intelligent, and driven, but kind-hearted social worker. While she is relatively easy to sympathize with, there are moments when her acting is positively unsettling. Whether it’s a slight pause between her sentences, or how she stares, smiling just a little bit too long, Roberts dances between a normal, well-adjusted person, and someone who is more disturbed than viewers initially think.
I find that, in some cases, shows or movies that cut back and forth between multiple timelines can be confusing. Sometimes, it’s hard to tell whether or not a flashback is actually a flashback. “Homecoming” seamlessly integrates the past with the present, weaving an enticing plot that keeps viewers guessing. The filmmakers have offered a visual clue to viewers, signaling us that we are in the past with the aspect ratio of the picture. The “typical” 16:9 aspect ratio is used during the past, whereas throughout the present storyline, a 1:1 (square) aspect ratio is used. Up until past and present collide, this is the go-to stylistic choice.
While the story is very intense, full of lies, red herrings, and blanks which need to be filled, it’s easy to follow along as it sucks you in. Red herrings aren’t carelessly scattered throughout the story; every event has significance. When the season comes to a close, our questions are answered. Everything is brought full circle, and you aren’t left hanging. The show has already been renewed for a second season, so if you get a chance, it’s well worth your time – and each of the ten episodes are only a half hour!