french films > Home




cast: Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaïde Leroux

year: 2008

colour: yes

certificate: Everyone

director: Ursula Meier

runtime: 110

The open highway stretches to the horizon in both directions, promising all the freedom, and all the narrative mobility, of a road movie. Yet with her big-screen feature debut Home, Ursula Meier has used such a setting to construct what she describes as "a road movie in reverse", where the main characters, far from moving on, recede further and further into themselves as they struggle to accommodate the ever-changing world of the road beyond to the fragile security and stasis of their domestic situation. The seductive, apocalyptic menace of Meier's tarred speed lanes could have come straight out of a JG Ballard novel, while the precarious nature of a family's homelife recalls the nightmare of Todd Haynes' Safe (1995).

Even though Marthe (Isabelle Huppert), Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and their three children live in an isolated house alongside a multi-lane autoroute, they are, like the film that features them, way off the beaten track. For while the highway was more or less completed 10 years ago, it never actually opened, and so this family has let its domestic space spill out onto the empty tarmac beyond - a bitumen playground where they spend balmy evenings together larking about, playing roller hockey or just sitting on a sofa listening to nothing but the sounds of their own existence.

Weekdays a separate dirt road is used by Dad to go to work, by a garbage truck to collect the family's refuse, and by a schoolbus to pick up the two younger children before later bringing them home once again - but beyond that there is little contact with the outside world, and Mum and eldest daughter Judith seem never to leave the immediate environs of the home. It is, or at least appears to be, an idyllic country life, insulated from the hustle and bustle of other people.

But then, as the summer vacation begins and they must all face more time than usual in one another's company, the road is opened with little warning, exposing all the family's inner tensions to an endless, noisy stream of traffic. Judith, whose catchphrase is "I don't care", defiantly continues sunbathing outside, for the first time having a parade of passing spectators to whom she can display her rebellious insolence and bikini'd body. It is clear she will be first to leave the fold.


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