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Welcome Home Movie Review

It's not the refuge it used to be

Taking a well-worn genre and making it feel fresh and new is the constant task of screenwriters in today's world, and it's never easy. With that said, David Levinson's "Welcome Home" falls remarkably flat, as the neophyte writer too often pushes aside risk and daring in favor of the path of least resistance. Every time it seems like the script might really get going it trails off into the realm of ho-hum again, and unfortunately the actors don't do enough to save it.

The film follows Cassie (Emily Ratajkowski, "Gone Girl") and Bryan (Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad), an American couple who have rented an Airbnb for a week in rustic Italy. We quickly learn that, while this feels like a romantic getaway, it is really an attempt at emergency resuscitation for a relationship that is on life support after Cassie cheated on Bryan. Any time they start to make progress, Bryan imagines her with the other man and pushes away, raising his jealously and frustrating Cassie.

Things only become more complicated when the couple meets neighbor Federico (Riccardo Scamarcio, "John Wick: Chapter 2"), who Cassie invites into the house and Bryan instantly dislikes. Federico is immediately revealed to the viewer to be the film's central antagonist, as he is shown in front of a bank of TV screens connected to cameras around the Airbnb. The rest of the film has Cassie and Bryan battling their emotions toward each other, which are complicated by Federico using the knowledge he has gained to further amplify their feelings.

Revealing Federico as the villain so early in the film eliminates a lot of the suspense that could have helped carry the tension. Instead, director George Ratliff ("Joshua") tries to artificially insert suspense through the almost continual use of an ominous violin soundtrack and bizarre cuts to the out-of-focus, dimly lit imaginations of the two leads that seem to prompt their emotional swings. Worse, neither Cassie nor Bryan is particularly believable or likeable. Aaron Paul makes the choice to play Bryan as a constantly dark, brooding, jealous character who constantly seems one step from violence. It is never brought up, but it seems as though this could have been an abusive relationship, and this removes any desire to root for Bryan.

For her part, Ratajkowki's Cassie is very flat, seeming unable to comprehend that Bryan might still be struggling with her infidelity. Instead of bringing the viewer in with the story and acting, Ratajkowski's character is just kept scantily clad for the first part of the movie, both trying to seduce Bryan into having fun and trying to seduce the audience into believing it is truly enjoying itself.

Easily the most enjoyable part of the movie is Scamarcio's performance. His presence always makes your skin crawl and he's very convincing as the puppet-master behind the scenes, craftily using Bryan and Cassie's insecurities against them.

It feels like there should be something of substance here, as the bare-bones premise of the movie deals with trust: of your partner, of strangers you meet, and of the people we engage with on the internet. Instead, even after the stakes become quite high, there is not enough in "Welcome Home" to draw you in.


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