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Highway to Hell

A good family gets a bad break in Ursula Meier's Home

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The family at the center of Ursula Meier's film has it good. Their house is perched on the side of a freeway, but the road is abandoned, so they make good use of the unused blacktop. Some nights they turn it into a hockey rink. On other nights the kids practice driving the family car. The foxy teenage daughter sunbathes at the side of the road in her skimpy bikini, listening to heavy metal on her boom box. No one gives her any trouble.

One day, a group of men in bright orange suits arrive like a troupe of alien invaders, and everything changes. Without speaking a word, they abruptly clear the family's patio furniture off the road, and begin repaving and reassembling the guard rails. The kids can't even cross the street to go to school anymore. No one can sleep because the sound of swooshing cars all night keeps them awake. Truckers whistle at the teenage daughter. Eventually, the family can't take it anymore.

The mother, Marthe (Isabelle Huppert), is the first to crack. She takes her anxiety out on her husband Michel (Olivier Gourmet) and refuses to abandon the house because she doesn't want to start over. He tries to board up the windows, but that just suffocates them and prevents air from properly circulating. Exhausted, Marthe eventually collapses into a near coma.

Beautifully shot and well-acted, Ursula Meier's film was Switzerland's submission for Best Foreign Film Oscar consideration. Though it didn't make the cut, it's a fine film. It's an edgy, provocative drama that at times packs the punch of a horror movie.

jniesel@clevescene.com

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