A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this TV show.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Homecoming is a drama starring Julia Roberts that centers on a mysterious program aimed at helping returning soldiers reacclimate to civilian life. The series is based on a podcast written by Micah Bloomberg and Eli Horowitz and directed by Sam Esmail of the acclaimed series Mr. Robot. Issues relating to wartime and post-traumatic stress disorder are explored; there are references to past violence as well as some on-screen fistfights and scuffles among the soldiers and other characters. Adults are seen drinking alcoholic beverages, as well as taking various medications. There's some swearing, though it's not used excessively.
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What's the story?
HOMECOMING is a miniseries that explores issues of corruption and repression through the lens of tightly wound protagonist Heidi Bergman (Julia Roberts), a therapist working at a government facility set up to improve the lives of combat veterans as they transition back to private life. Heidi tells herself she's helping to heal these soldiers' traumas, but her aspirations appear to be in constant conflict with her condescending blowhard of a boss, Colin (Bobby Cannavale), who may be hiding a more sinister agenda behind the corporation that's running the program. The show flickers between a past timeline -- where Heidi grows increasingly bonded to one of her patients, Walter Cruz (Stephan James) -- and a future timeline that finds Heidi living with her mom (Sissy Spacek) and working as a waitress, curiously unable to recollect her time at Homecoming when a Department of Defense investigator (Shea Whigham) shows up with questions about exactly what went down there.
Is it any good?
Director Sam Esmail's fingerprint is all over this, with creepy vibes and visual flourishes harking to his other acclaimed show Mr. Robot -- and thankfully, this series has both style and substance. Roberts honestly couldn't have picked a better show in which to make her television debut, playing an unreliable protagonist who swings from ambitious and hopeful in one timeline to confused and guilt-ridden in another. Homecoming does a nimble job navigating between two timelines using a clever optical technique (the past is shown in a standard 16:9 aspect ratio, while the future timeline is a boxed-in and claustrophobic 4:3) and a terrific strings-heavy score. Shea Whigham, perhaps best known as Boardwalk Empire's Eli Thompson, has a great turn here as the introverted Department of Defense bureaucrat trying to get to the bottom of what happened at Homecoming, and who was responsible.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why readjusting to life at home would be hard for a soldier returning from war. What are some challenges they might face? What kind of supports may be needed to help them?
How does Homecoming convey the mood of paranoia that is felt by some of the characters? Do you think their theories about what they are experiencing have any basis in reality?
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