cast: Isabelle Huppert, Olivier Gourmet, Adelaide Leroux, Madeleine Budd, and Kacey Mottet Klein
director: Ursula Meier
98 minutes (15) 2008
widescreen ratio 1.85:1
Soda DVD Region 2
review by Tony Hill
This is a rather strange movie – not just because it is a joint Swiss-French-Belgian co-production – but because, on the surface, it is easily dismissed as being a rather boring, insignificant offering. However, after watching it a while you can’t quite stop thinking about it and its hidden meanings, and implications even on your own life.
On the surface the plot is mundane. A slightly dysfunctional family with rumbustious working father Michel (Olivier Gourmet), mother Marthe (Isabelle Huppert) with – hinted at – past mental problems, layabout older daughter Judith (Adelaide Leroux) who spends all her days lying in the sun outside the house or lying in the bath, intellectual younger daughter Marion (Madeleine Budd), and nine-year-old son Julien (Kacey Mottet Klein), are living happily yet incongruously in a house very close to a virtually complete but unused (for 10 years) dual carriageway. Suddenly, the authorities announce that the road will soon open. Workmen appear and make final preparations and one day a trickle of traffic appears.
Initially, the traffic is a pleasant diversion for the family with younger daughter carrying-out statistical analyses of the types of vehicles and sunbathing Judith responding to admiring glances from passing drivers.
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But, as days go by the traffic builds-up to normal main road levels – including one amusing scene where a tail-back brings everything to a halt outside the house. Action then centres on the family’s efforts to live with the huge noise and fumes. Older daughter Judith walks away, but the family, led by ever-inventive Michel, battle on. Some momentary thoughts are given to leaving but mother Marthe cannot bring herself to “move somewhere else, again” – hinting at past darker issues.
More and more extreme solutions are implemented leading-up to the final dénouement. This can either be taken literally or as an illustration of some other rather more extreme conclusion. The film is really an allegorical tale of man’s seeming ability to put-up with (and adopt to) any degree of suffering together with the built-in inertia or fear of taking a new course away from the known into the unknown. Interestingly, only the layabout daughter has the wits and courage to do it.
It’s well acted, despite the limiting surroundings and situation with much to think about. Not an absolute ‘must-see’ but well worth a look for the ideas it presents.