Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Home: living beside the fast lane

Melbourne International Film Festival 2009

There's no place Home until one day the expressway that they’ve been living happily beside for ten years is finally opened. Separated from their access road and pounded by traffic noise, an outwardly well-adjusted family comes apart.

The mother Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) is tied to this home. It has helped her overcome her past depression. The elder indolent daughter Judith (Adélaïde Leroux) is also tied to home, spending her days sunbathing next to the highway. Younger daughter (Marion Madeleine Budd) is the ugly duckling, an unworldly nerd whose response is to collect scientific data and research possible car fume related diseases. The father Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and young son Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein) are the anchors to normality.

Despite their best attempts to cope with their impossible situation, eventually the wheels come off. All seems lost until they break down the walls that are strangling them, both literally and metaphorically.

Director Ursula Meier uses a fairly conventional narrative structure, as their home life becomes more and more bizarre until it reaches its surreal climax. Along the way there are lots of both tender and explosive family moments, especially the warmth between the parents and their son.

Sometimes the story travels too slowly. As an allegory for modern society, both at personal and technological levels, it requires a suspension of disbelief that is hard to sustain at times. Having a team of six credited writers for the film may help to explain this problem.

As French films go, Home is refreshing because it is atypical in many respects. Ultimately, in this touching and funny exploration of families and what holds them together, we are being asked to question what is normal.

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