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With this playful fable, filmmaker Meier takes a clever look at family life by placing the characters in a surreal location and then twisting things outrageously. And terrific acting makes it surprisingly resonant.

Marthe and Michel (Huppert and Gourmet) live in idyllic isolation on an unfinished highway with their three children: snarky sunbather Judith (Leroux), obsessive teen Marion (Budd) and lively young Julien (Klein). But their quiet life is about to be shattered when, after 10 years, Route E57 is finally opened. Suddenly, they're cut off from work and school by a crowded, high-speed motorway. But while Marion frets about pollution, Marthe refuses to leave her beloved home, leaving Michel no choice but to take drastic action.

Gorgeously shot by the gifted Agnes Godard, the film has a quietly shifting style that almost subliminally moves from relaxed and comical to harrowing and scary. This is a family that's unable to control its own destiny, no matter how hard they try. And it's thoroughly gripping to watch their good-natured banter and matter-of-fact pragmatism give way to desperation, infighting and instability.

Fortunately, the cast is so natural that this never becomes depressing. And the comical/metaphorical approach keeps us from taking it too literally. The result is that it gets well beneath our skin in a way we don't quite expect. When the emotions come, they rattle us almost as much as the other characters. And this also allows the cast, especially Huppert and Gourmet, to give layered performances. While the remarkably unselfconscious Klein offers us a blast of fresh hope from start to finish.

There are all kinds of issues swirling around, and Meier inventively creates an almost post-apocalyptic atmosphere in which this could be the last family on earth. We experience the noisy joy of life outside the rat race, the invading "alien" road workers, the expectation and dread of the first car, the cacophony of traffic, the claustrophobic squalor of the final act. All of this tests the resilience of this family unit in evocative and thoroughly engaging ways. Will they survive? Can they let go of the past and move on? Is isolationism a realistic option?



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Facts and Figures

Run time: 120 mins

In Theaters: Friday 5th June 2009

Distributed by: FilmBuff

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 3.5 / 5

IMDB: 8.6 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Ursula Meier

Producer: Denis Delcampe, , Thierry Spicher, Elena Tatti

Starring: as Steve-O

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