d. Ursula Meier / 2008 / Switzerland-France-Belgium / 98 mins
Viewed at: Screen 1 @ Cinema City (Norwich, UK)
A family of five live – quite literally, and very happily – on the edge of an abandoned motorway. When work is resumed and the motorway is quickly opened to traffic, their life is turned on its head. What transpires is a kind of Bad Boy Bubby in reverse which, on paper, is not a bad premise and certainly seems worth exploring. Trouble is, the promise of an interesting allegorical fable just hasn’t translated into a coherent film.
I wanted to like this film, I truly did. But I just couldn’t. It’s a complete muddle, stuck between the ‘arthouse’ mainstream and the more experimental margins of feature filmmaking. And, more to the point, it never really seems sure of itself, or of its world and what it is meant to represent. In fact, the delineation between the internal dynamic of the family and the threat posed by the outside world are blurry, weak and bordering on non-existent. And for a film playing at unconventionality, it also has a fairly stock-standard ending.
One can only assume that, with six writing credits listed, Home was either troubled from the outset or a case of ‘too many cooks’. That said, it is crafted well enough, with plenty of beautiful, stark images and some excellent set pieces. And while populated by bouts of dark humour – both verbal and visual – it’s also full of great performances from a cast led by Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet. Problem is, it just seems to lack any soul whatsoever.
And I can’t help but question the involvement of Huppert. Without a lead that appeals to international distributors, of course, British audiences would most likely have never seen this film. And yet, I can’t help wondering how the film may have been different had it not been burdened throughout production by its existence as ‘an Isabelle Huppert film’.