The home buying dream is just that for the modern generation: an unattainable dream. What if you could own a home with no rent and no mortgage? Such is the setup for Patrick Cunningham’s Model Home, making its worldwide debut at the North Bend Film Festival. When struggling mother Camila (Monique Gabriela Curnen) and her son Jaime (Luke Ganalon) are selected for a live-in staging experiment at a model home, it sounds too good to be true. Recently evicted and down on their luck, they’re given an opportunity to live beyond their means, and everything is rosy, until Camila stops taking her meds and a dangerous fixation with staging every part of their lives begins.
What begins sweetly, as a mother and son journey into a better life, quickly catches fire and turns into a post-consumerist horror film. Camila begins recreating an idealistic lifestyle out of papier-mâché. Jaime often drags one of his mother’s craft dolls around, signifying his loneliness and desperation for connection. He’ll leave food out for a wandering dog and craft elaborate James Bond stories with his mother to keep his mind occupied. Jaime desperately wants to be the glue to hold his mother together, but she becomes lost in her homemaking fantasies once she goes off her medication regiment.
Model Home is built with provocative cold shots that drain your soul. The home is shot in the same disaffected cool used when Breaking Bad would showcase the Schrader residence, lofty skies hanging over residential commercial dreams. The problem with living in a dream is you eventually have to wake up.
Problems in the home escalate quickly. It only takes a couple visits for real estate agent Brenda (played by Picket Fences alumni Kathy Baker) to cotton onto the idea there’s a problem in the house. The boy’s always left alone, while Camila works fecklessly toward her papier-mâché dreams in her papier-mâché home.
Model Home’s a meticulously crafted piece of social commentary. The scenes work wonderfully and everyone involved is on-form. It doesn’t exist in an easily prescribed genre and will have to earn its audience through the strength of assured recommendations. It’s certainly one of my standouts for the North Bend Film Festival and one of those films where I come back to the computer, excited to tell you all about this new concept. Through its own cool, disconnected style and talented cast, Model Home earns a high recommendation and our complete confidence with this early screening.