There are richly-realised characters and performances in this layered drama about depression, centering on a family who can’t seem to communicate with each other, but it doesn’t quite come together in a resonating way by its denouement.
Dir. Joachim Trier
2015 | Norway/France | Drama | 109 mins | 1.85:1 | English & French
NC16 (CatchPlay rating) for nudity
Cast: Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid
Plot: The fractious family of a father and his two sons confront their different feelings and memories of their deceased wife and mother, a famed war photographer.
Awards: Nom. for Palme d’Or (Cannes)
International Sales: Memento Films International
Subject Matter: Moderate – Family, Incommunicability, Depression
Narrative Style: Slightly Complex
Pace: Slightly Slow
Audience Type: Slightly Arthouse
Joachim Trier’s third feature after Reprise (2006) and Oslo, August 31st (2011), Louder Than Bombs represents a few firsts for the talented Danish filmmaker.
It is his first English-language film, first film to be invited to compete in the main competition at the Cannes Film Festival, and the first film to feature international stars such as Isabelle Huppert, Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne.
There are richly-realised characters whom we will know intimately by the end of the film, and they are portrayed with restrain and nuance by the excellent cast.
Devin Druid, in particular, caught my eye as Conrad, who could easily play Barry Keoghan’s brother in any film. He’s the youngest son in a family subtly torn apart after the death of Isabelle (Huppert), the mother, in a car accident. Byrne plays the father, while Eisenberg plays Conrad’s older brother.
“There are days I’m invisible, I can do whatever I want.”
Louder Than Bombs is a layered drama told rather complexly—and some might say, ambitiously—in a non-linear fashion, adopting the various perspectives of each character through the course of the film.
The theme is incommunicability as each member, with varying degree, struggles to hold a proper conversation with one another, perhaps due to some kind of depression or an existential crisis they can’t seem to get out of.
In typical Trier fashion, he frames some of these solitary or conversational scenes in long shots, as if we are spying or eavesdropping on them from afar. But despite excellent performances and characterisations, Louder Than Bombs somehow doesn’t seem destined for greatness.
It’s a film that is less than the sum of its parts, and doesn’t quite come together in a resonating way by its denouement, even if it appears that all the conditions (narrative, themes, characters, performances, film language, etc.) have set it on the perfect path.
Funny how cinema works sometimes… the ingredients are there, but there’s little in the way of magic.