Confident, acute and both emotionally and intellectually stirring, Trier’s American début is a real success…
The family at the centre of Louder Than Bombs is fractured and struggling long before the figurative bombs go off. The parents feud heavily and that understandably takes its heavy toll on both their sons; the college age Jesse Eisenberg and the much younger Devin Druid. It seems like a daily struggle to keep the family together, but all of this we learn retrospectively as the film is set years later, amongst the ebbing shock-waves caused by the death of the war photographer mother. The sad irony here being that it’s not an actual bomb in a far away land which gets her but a car crash just miles from the family home. Detailing the void created in her absence, the film dives into the gulf between the father and his too sons. Each of them is stricken with fear; the fear of giving way to acceptance, the fear of knowing hard truths about both themselves and their absent loved one and also the simple but ever present fear of communication and opening themselves up to each other again.
Some may say that Joachim Trier’s film is too ponderous, too wrapped up within its protagonist’s inner lives to truly breathe properly, but I wouldn’t agree. There’s a deftness to the way the film navigates the different points of view of its lead characters. Developments and viewpoint shifts reveal new ways of understanding the action on screen, and by the time the credits roll we feel like we have absorbed and understood multiple perspectives on the emotional gulf the film navigates. This isn’t a film concerned with anything other than the inner lives of its three characters.We aren’t given easy answers here, death and estrangement simply do not get neatly parcelled up and put to one side and Trier doesn’t pretend that they do. Still this isn’t solely a gloomy affair, there are shades here with humour and warmth being found in some of the trickiest and darkest of familial situations.
Some simply won’t like the film, and that’s OK. There aren’t many emotional bombs going off here; instead it is a quiet and often reserved study of human behaviour and how individuals deal with grief. But if you do take to it the film boasts accomplished direction, a smart script and an impressive collection of performances including; Jesse Eisenberg who delivers a very nicely layered and complex portrayal of delayed grief, Devin Druid who navigates his role with a confidence and believability which clearly marks him out as an actor to watch and Isabelle Huppert who is superb in the role of the mother which in another’s hands could have easily lacked the impact and gravitas she brings to the role.
Even if you feel disconnected from the core characters at times, the film itself never lets you go. Well observed, acted and written Louder Than Bombs is a compelling piece, underscored by an irrepressible emotional undertow.
Louder Than Bombs arrives in UK cinemas today (22nd April), will you be checking it out? Let us know in the comment box below!