Distributed by Kino Lorber Edu, 333 West 39 St, Suite 503, New York, NY 10018; 212-629-6880
Produced by Denis Delcampe, Denis Freyd, Elena Tatti, and Thierry Spicher
Directed by Ursula Meier
DVD, color, 97 min., In French with English subtitles
College - General Adult
Environmental Studies, Family Studies, Film Studies, Psychology
Reviewed by Wendy Highby, University of Northern Colorado
Date Entered: 8/8/2011
Home is neither your typical home movie nor your average road movie. In an interview included as an extra on the disk, Director Ursula Meier says “the idea was to change the perspective and make a reverse road movie.” The film features a family of five, but the most powerful character is a sixth, the roadway abutting the family’s home. This seemingly benign transportation artery is a sleeping leviathan that will soon awaken and become a horrific and negative influence upon the family’s life. While Home could be viewed simply as a quirky family drama, it is also a serious social commentary on technology’s escalating and seemingly uncontrollable impact on the environment.
As the film begins, the family leads an idyllic life in their rural home, located literally a few feet away from an abandoned multi-lane highway. In early scenes, the family happily frolics, using the highway as a patio and roller rink. The two youngest children blithely cross the defunct freeway on their way to and from school each day. They have lived this way for ten years, but the idyll soon comes to an end. Construction trucks and workers arrive, spreading tar on the road. The freeway opens and the noise level gradually rises as traffic density increases. At first the family gamely tries to adjust. They use ear plugs, and then try changing their sleeping location, behaving like rambunctious kids at a slumber party. But the close quarters soon become stifling. The middle daughter, the scientist of the family, obsesses about the lead poisoning that will result from the traffic’s proximity. She improvises protective gear out of swim caps and snorkels, and inflicts the garb upon her younger brother. The elder daughter is a smoker and seems impervious to the pollution, claiming to have genetic immunity. Eventually a traffic jam destroys the family’s remaining sense of privacy. Last seen sunbathing next to the highway, the elder daughter disappears. This turn of events forces a crisis. The father tries to convince the family to pack up and leave but the mother refuses. The family’s stress builds to a crescendo. The film’s plot is engaging and ends with a satisfying conclusion. The arc of the story is pitch-perfect. The film is a superbly-acted ensemble piece starring Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaide Leroux, Madeleine Budd, and Kacey Mottet Klein.
Home has intriguing pedagogical possibilities. In addition to its obvious use in traditional film studies, it could be employed in both psychology and environmental studies courses. If used in psychology, it would particularly lend itself to demonstrating family systems theory. The opening of the highway functions as a metaphor for any disruptive change in a family system. If used to support environmental studies curriculum, the film could function as a dramatic illustration of human adaptation to environmental stresses.