I am extremely envious of the person who can boast that they have never had to live with roommates. It is a rite of passage and, for many, a lifetime reality, especially if you live in a large city where rent is more expensive. All that to say, Heart of the Home is for all of us who’ve had to live with people whose habits may have almost driven us completely insane. The folks who made questionable life choices, who didn’t know how to clean, et cetera. It’s a cathartic experience in where we get to think, “Well, at least (insert roommate’s name here) isn’t this bad.”
Natalie (Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg) and Kimiko (Yukina Takase) have to say goodbye to their long term roommate, Shino (Kazumi Zatkin), since she is getting married. They’re now left with the daunting and loathsome task of finding a new roommate. After a scene reminiscent of Sally Field picking housekeepers in Mrs. Doubtfire, where all the prospective applicants were, shall we say, sub-optimal, Natalie and Kamiko settle on a last-minute applicant, Miko (Mia Ando), who wishes to move in right away. It’s not too long before Natalie and Kimiko (but moreso Natalie) begin to notice something off about their new roommate.
First of all, Miko wants to spend all of her time in her room, even while cooking. She also sends passive-aggressive all-caps texts to Natalie about all sorts of minor incidents. She accuses the neighbors’ dog of attacking her. The dog is incredibly friendly, and it didn’t happen. Other incidents of weird behavior start piling up. Kimiko is conveniently absent for most of the fracases because she’s out partying all night most of the time, which leaves Natalie to deal with everything crazy going on. There’s also the fact that Miko has no social media, has no results that come up in a web search or even a police database, and again, she spends all of her time in her room, except to stand creepily outside of Natalie’s room and then say she didn’t.
“…[Miko] spends all of her time in her room, except to stand creepily outside of Natalie’s room and then say she didn’t.“
Heart of the Home is a horror film, meaning there’s definitely something seriously wrong with Miko. I forgot to mention that Miko also makes wigs out of human hair. Maybe that has something to do with what makes her crazy? I’m not going to ruin the fun, however. Which, if the David Palmieri directed genre flick is anything, it’s fun—campy, over-the-top fun. Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg gives an excellent performance as the most screwed over roommate to ever live. Mia Ando is fantastic as the unhinged Miko.
This proves to be a great microbudget horror movie that actually shows what a roommate experience is really like. Not the part about the roommate being a psychopath, but by the layout of the apartment. It’s small. Natalie lives in the living room behind a screened partition. The bathroom is tiny. It’s like a regular crappy apartment that almost everyone reading this has lived in at one time or another. I understand that this was probably done for budgetary reasons, but I appreciate that slice of realism.
I’m also impressed that Elisabeth Steen-Nokleberg co-wrote, produced, and starred in the film. Women lead the cast, and it’s a woman-centric story. The entire team, including David Palmieri, who was also the cinematographer, did a great job bringing this whole nightmare scenario to fruition.
Heart of the Home is a micro-budget horror movie that offers a little bit more camp than actual scares, but it’s well written, compelling, and darkly comedic. It’ll make you want to hug your roommate, or since it’s Covid time, I guess bump elbows with them. It’s fun, and you should check it out.
"…offers a little bit more camp than actual scares..."