North Bend Film Fest 2018: MODEL HOME Review – When the American Dream Crashes

Starring Monique Gabriela Curnen, Luke Ganalon, Kathy Baker

Written by Patrick Cunningham, William Day Frank

Directed by Patrick Cunningham

Model Home held its World Premier at the North Bend Film Fest on August 25, 2018

When Camila (Monique Gabriela Curnen) and her son Jaime (Luke Ganalon) are recruited to live in an unsold home as part of a staging strategy, an extended reverie into domestic idealism forces them to confront psychological demons as terrifying as the poverty they seek refuge from.

Model Home utilizes the aftermath of the housing market crash to articulate a personal anxiety spurred when reality and dreams conflict. While the concept of allowing families to live in massive homes in exchange for staging services seems like a win-win, it also dangles a fairytale in front of desperate people. Rather than providing an opportunity to escape poverty long-term, it is a predatory tactic that takes advantages of those who are willing to turn their lives into a 24/7 facade in exchange for a taste of the fantasy life they are fabricating. The sight of new 2000-square-foot homes wasting away in abandoned housing developments, while families struggle to find shelter on the other side of town is the caustic irony that fuels the sentiment behind the film.

The complicated dynamic between Camila and Jaime is patiently teased. We see Jaime keeping his mom on track with a daily pill regimen. Camila’s deep love for her son is genuine, but it is backdropped by a shifting disposition that can only be characterized as manic. She peaks with outpours of optimism, where she’s owning at life, only to be nagged by a nervous shake as her twitchy demeanor exposes the madness bubbling inside of her. Camila’s desire to fit the mold of the catalogue-perfect family drives her to increasingly dangerous behavior, leaving poor Jamie trapped by maternal love in spite of his apprehension about their living arrangement and his mother’s unhinged actions.

Camila and Jaime are largely left on their own, as their staged home leaves them isolated from any sense of community. In this development, the white picket fence isn’t necessary, because there are no nosey neighbors. Model Home illustrates how marginalized people, who often need the most help, are almost set up to fail with no support network. There’s no one for Jaime to turn to when his mother’s mental illness overtakes their lives. So long as the agency who placed the mother and son are getting what they need, anything could happen inside that home and no one would care.

Saturated with engaging thematic content, Model Home lacks punctuation on its thesis, or at least what I presume its thesis to be. As Camila’s psychological breakdown becomes less empathetic and she slowly morphs into villain of the film, it shirks socioeconomic dialogue in favor of an unsurprising psychological thriller format—one that leans towards caricature of the mentally ill. This is flanked by an odd choice of a side character, a scavenger living in an aging motorhome, who is clearly unstable himself. However, his character’s primary purpose seems to be serving up another human to get caught up in the escalating violence. I found myself conflicted in my read of the film. On the one hand, it portrays its impoverished characters as psychopathic plot devices to stir up conflict. On the other hand, perhaps this is an intentional decision. Model Home points out the fragility of an economic structure that literally drives people mad in their pursuit of the American dream.

Model Home is a springboard for more challenging conversations than the film ultimately explores itself. Competently made in all regards, it’s a tight film that sucks you into the plight of its characters dashed hopes. There seems to be a disconnect between the initial concept and the ultimate execution, but it’s worth the ride if you’re willing to do some thematic extrapolation.

  • Model Home


Model Home examines the mental strain of the American dream. It’s a psychological thriller that makes you work if you want to dig up more nuance underneath its setting of the housing market crash.

User Rating 0 (0 votes)


Sign up for The Harbinger a Dread Central Newsletter