Having seen how remarkable a collaborative process it has been for Danish filmmaker Tobias Lindholm and Thomas Vinterberg, teaming up for both The Hunt and The Commune – it shows that having two accomplished directors co-produce a screenplay can spawn such tremendous projects, which has been the case following the script penned by Norwegian auteurs Joachim Trier and Eskil Vogt, with the former helming the endeavour from the director’s chair, in what is his first, and somewhat inevitable, English language production.
We dive into the fractious dynamic of the Reed family, where the death of renowned war photographer Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) leaves behind a devastating imprint on her widowed husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne) and two sons, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) and Conrad (Devin Druid). While the former searches for love again, taking a liking to teacher Hannah (Amy Ryan), his eldest, Jonah, is welcoming in a new addition to the family with his first child. All the while teenager Conrad is going through a formative year, discovering love, life and sex and everything that falls in-between – but what he hasn’t managed to achieve is a compatible relationship with his father, as the pair struggle tirelessly to see eye to eye.
At its core, Louder Than Bombs is a profound study of grief, as we watch how three men struggle to cope without the glue that held their family together. We see from each of their perspectives, in a film that could certainly be enriched on a second viewing, with so many layers and nuances to each of their respective developments, as you find certain strands to relate to in each of their situations: be it remembering what it felt like to be a teenager, or what it’s like being a parent. Trier also does a fine job of ensuring that, in spite of their flaws, each character remains identifiable in some way. Though melodramatic in parts, this tale is set on the right side of authenticity, offering a heightened take on reality. It’s incredible too that we don’t lose focus, for we’re dealing with an ensemble piece with no palpable protagonist, which can often be a detrimental flaw to a production, but you remain emotionally absorbed within this title. In some ways the true protagonist of this piece is Isabelle, for it’s her death, and the subsequent impact it has, which lays the foundations for this drama to thrive off.
Trier is half Norwegian and half Danish, and spent years learning and adjusting his craft in London; and what transpires is a feature not confined to any one particular nation’s sensibilities – yet all the same, there is something distinctly Scandinavian in the effortless blend of humour and pathos. It just goes to show that while this film premiered at Cannes Film Festival almost a year ago, there are still gems from festivals past that are unreleased, and completely deserving of your attention.