An air of unsettling mystery permeates Home. Even in its glorious opening, bursting with saturated summer tones and carefree play, instabilities and threats seem to lurk beneath the family’s private utopia. Ursula Meier’s compelling feature-length fiction debut defies easy categorisation at every turn, and this is what makes it so fascinating. Meier herself calls it a “road movie in reverse”, but it is much more than that.
Isabelle Huppert and Olivier Gourmet star as loving parents to their three children. For years, the incomplete highway bordering the family’s house has been their own personal playground and they frolic breezily in the sunshine. When work crews arrive to install barriers and finish the asphalt, though, it is only a matter of time before the roaring traffic breaks the family’s magical spell of peace and seclusion.
Suddenly, they are all-but-trapped in their plot of land, and the constant flow of cars pushes them further indoors. As the never-ending noise and pollution infiltrates their once-sacred space, Home becomes progressively darker—not just in colour palette, but in the surreal bleakness of its characters’ psychologies and the measures they take to cling to their possessive space. Their self-imposed purgatory is a bizarre nightmare, rarely captured so viscerally on film.
French-Swiss writer/director Meier creates a disturbing dystopia that feels like a fairy tale torn apart at its seams. The film seems to suggest those rolling green hills can only exist permanently in nostalgic imagination. Yet it lingers feverishly in the memory because the family’s deepest fears are not only profoundly human, but also worryingly familiar for a modern audience. As the family members mask themselves against the relentless pollution and huddle closer together in their desolate enclosure, they turn their backs on the world outside. Opting for the isolationist approach may be one way to survive, but in Home, it is the world beyond, not domestic space, that may be the sanctuary after all.
Home is available to stream in France on Google Play, iTunes, Orange, Pantaflix and YouTube, in the UK on BFI Player and in the US on Amazon, Fandor, VUDU, and YouTube. The film is distributed by Kino Lorber (USA),Thunderbird (UK), and Diaphana Films (France).
Jade is a freelance film programmer, currently working with the Geffrye Museum of the Home in London. She has recently completed her Masters in Film Studies, Programming and Curation at the National Film and Television School. She writes about film at betweentheframes.co.uk.