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Film review: Louder Than Bombs – Norwegian director’s English-language debut underwhelming

Story centres on angst-ridden family trying to come to terms with matriarch’s death. High-calibre cast, light touch and visual poetics can’t disguise mundane nature of the character’s travails

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 April, 2016, 10:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 April, 2016, 3:36pm

3/5 stars

Angst in all its ugly forms fuels Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier’s first English language film, as a family continues to reel from the death of its matriarch five years on. Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert and Gabriel Byrne ensure the acting pedigree is consistently high, but their individual dramas frustrate more often than they earn our sympathies.

The film’s primary focus is youngest son Conrad (Devin Druid), who at 17 has been left in the dark about details relating to his mother’s death. An accomplished photojournalist, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) died in a car accident on a return trip from snapping the war-torn Middle East. However, an imminent newspaper profile from a former colleague will reveal that she committed suicide.

His father, Gene (Byrne), hopes to tell Conrad the truth before the article is published, but Conrad is too wrapped up in the anguish of being a high-school outsider to sustain any kind of conversation. The arrival of older brother Jonah (Eisenberg) should serve as a useful conduit, but he is also wrestling with the responsibilities of becoming a new father.

To the director’s credit, Trier juxtaposes this tangled web of troubled individuals with a confident hand that gives his characters room to breathe. What they can’t communicate to each other is revealed to the audience in unhurried, carefully composed fashion.

Louder Than Bombs has a lightness of touch, and seems equally interested in its visual poetics and soundtrack as in the plight of its characters. But no amount of attractive set dressing can disguise the underwhelming, mundane nature of their malaise.

Louder Than Bombs opens on April 14

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