Home -- Film Review

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NEW YORK -- In the anti-road movie "Home," a happily eccentric family of five lives on the margin of a vast, unused highway east of nowhere. But when the road suddenly becomes opened to traffic, bombarding them with noise and exhaust, the clan refuses to relocate, hunkering down in the one place the fragile mother (Isabelle Huppert) can call home. The film is the Swiss entry for the foreign-language Oscar.

In her assured big-screen feature debut, director Ursula Meier offers a provocative parable about individuals at war with development and the global economy. But the family's trials are inherently static, more a journey within than a cinematically riveting drama. Because of its eco-awareness and the ever-fascinating Huppert as a woman on the edge, the film should still pull in the art-house crowd.

Before the highway opens, it functions as the family's recreational space. They play roller hockey on the tarmac, its barrier functions as a shoe rack and the older daughter, perpetually sunbathing in a bikini, amusingly treats it as her private beach. In this unorthodox but vital menage, bath time is a shared event and on hot summer evenings the clan sprawls on a sofa in the garden watching TV. The kids go off to school and dad (Olivier Gourmet) to work, but we never follow them; nor do we learn how they all ended up in such isolation.

The launch of traffic along the speed lanes makes for a forceful inciting incident, striking the family like an assault from another planet. In behavior that grows increasingly wacko, they attempt to go on with life as usual, dining al fresco over the racket of cars and rigs, while the older daughter continues to sunbathe at the road's edge, much to the delight of male motorists.

But the highway's deafening roar moves center stage, unraveling the fabric of family life. One member is mysteriously abducted; the middle daughter convinces her little brother that the fumes will stunt his growth; and every attempt to cross the road becomes a dance with death. Entombing themselves in a dark, airless space becomes the sole remedy.

The movie plays long. And once established, the folly of the family and their descent into semi-madness offers few surprises. Towards the end, their self-imposed claustrophobia becomes almost as punishing to the viewer as the characters.

Still, the film offers indelible visuals, such as Huppert larking about on the empty speed lanes. Later, a giant traffic jam stalled before the family homestead, which scarily evokes a planet choking on its own abundance.

The role of an obsessed, intransigent woman is tailor-made for the ageless Huppert, and she's ably partnered by the great Gourmet. Tech credits are aces, the fluid camera of Agnes Godard becoming one with the family romps and pulling back for surreal long shots of Nowheresville. Despite its flaws, by keying into fears about the spoilage of the planet, "Home" hits home.

Opened: Nov. 27 (Lorber Films)

Production companies: Box Productions, Archipel 35, Need Productions.
Cast: Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaide Leroux, Madeleine Budd, Kacy Motet Klein.
Director: Ursula Meier
Screenwriters: Ursula Meier, Antoine Jaccoud, Raphaelle Valbrune, Gilles Taurand, Olivier Lorelle
Producers: Elena Tatti, Thierry Spicher, Denis Freyd, Denis Delcampe, Arlette Zylberberg, Isabelle Truc
Director of photography: Agnes Godard
Production designer: Ivan Niclass
Music: Etienne Curchod, Franco Piscopo
Costume designer: Anna Van Bree
Editors: Susana Rossberg, Francois Gedigier
Not rated, 98 minutes
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