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Originally published Thursday, February 18, 2010 at 3:00 PM

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Movie review

'Home': Sweet home disrupted by the modern world

"Home" is an absurdist Swiss comedy about a family who appears seemingly happy — until a freeway suddenly sprouts in their backyard, pouring noise and pollution into their kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms.

Special to The Seattle Times

Movie review 3 stars

'Home,' with Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Kacey Mottet Klein, Madeleine Budd, Adélaïde Leroux. Directed by Ursula Meier, from a screenplay by Meier, Antoine Jaccoud, Raphaëlle Valbrune, Gilles Taurand and Olivier Lorelle. 97 minutes. Not rated; for mature audiences (contains nudity). In French, with English subtitles. Northwest Film Forum; see Page 14.

There really is no place like home in Ursula Meier's "Home," a wry Swiss absurdist comedy that begins with a seemingly happy family celebrating their liberation from society.

Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) dote on their kids, especially Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein), a Macaulay Culkin-style cutup and the youngest in the family. His older sisters, Marion (Madeline Budd) and Judith (Adelaide Leroux), seem relatively content. That's soon to change.

They live in a house next to a freeway, but construction stopped on the road a decade ago, and it's been unnaturally quiet ever since. They treat this public place as their private playground, littered with lawn furniture that Judith uses to smoke and sunbathe.

Then, just when they've come to the conclusion that there's no threat and they can continue partying with their plastic beach toys, empty swimming pool and television (which they watch outdoors and under the stars), construction workers show up to complete the freeway.

Suddenly noise and pollution are pouring into the kitchen, bathroom and bedrooms, and the occupants react in ways that express their personalities. Marthe turns aggressive when she can't sleep, math-whiz Marion becomes obsessive, and hedonistic Judith runs away.

Julien and Michel turn into show-offs and daredevils, darting in and out of fast-moving traffic in a series of scenes that simply take your breath away. The scene-stealing Julien, in particular, seems to live a charmed life. (How did the actors flirt with catastrophe without getting hurt? Stunt doubles seem not to have been an option.)

Gradually the movie turns into an ironic assault on the inconvenient nature of civilization's conveniences. Mom would like to live on a golden plain, under a tree, and for a very brief moment she succeeds. Michel may seal away the noise by applying bricks and insulation, but there's really no way out once the freeway plows its way into their landscape.

John Hartl:

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