"Home": Love in the Time of Petroleum By Erik Helmerson

in 26th Reykjavik International Film Festival

by Erik Helmerson

Someone described Ursula Meier’s Home as a road movie in reverse, and it’s not easy to phrase it any better than that. Meier’s film introduces us to a family that sits very still, being quite content with their life in a house next to a motorway under construction. But if they don’t move, the road will definitely move them. It’s just a question of time until Route E57 opens its endless river of cars. No one can stay on the lee side of society forever.

Home describes how the slow love of the small world clashes with the hectic chaos of the big world, and it does it in a warm, humorous and quickly paced manner. The picture is Swiss director Ursula Meier’s first feature, but it is has an impressive finish that reveals the work of an experienced film maker. It comes as no surprise that Ursula Meier has a solid record of shorts, TV films and documentaries such as Pas les flics, pas les noirs, pas les blancs (2002).

The cast of Home is headlined by critic and audience — well, everyone’s really — favorite Isabelle Huppert. She gives a solid performance in the role of the mother — but better still are the father and sister, played by Olivier Gourmet and Adélaïde Leroux. Gourmet has a heart the size of a long-distance lorry while Leroux brings to the film dry teenage humor in the fashion of a young Jodie Foster. One image from Home that won’t disappear easily is that of a bikini-clad Leroux sunbathing in her deck chair on the family’s lawn, only two meters from the flowing traffic. The macho drivers keep honking their hopeful horns only to be greeted by Leroux’ furious middle finger.

When the cars enter the family’s life they carry in their trunks the end of utopia. Home takes a turn from comedy to tragedy and the ending of the film is perhaps not as strong, not as fresh as the beginning. But for a long time Home manages to combine clever slapstick with mild, unobtrusive criticism of today’s petroleum society. Jacques Tati’s quiet voice echoes somewhere in the background while the family tries to walk the tightrope of the motorway and love tries to find its way through the exhaust fumes of the 21th century.