Cannes 2015: Intelligent drama featuring Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg
Having established his reputation with Oslo, August 31st, Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier makes a successful transition to a larger scale, English-language production with Louder Than Bombs. Continuing his screenwriting collaboration with fellow filmmaker Eskil Vogt (Blind), Trier brings a sophisticated, literary sensibility to what could have been just another tale of a fractured family in search of reconciliation.
Gabriel Byrne has such a strong, careworn screen presence that he immediately attracts your sympathies for Gene Reed, a widower asked to help in the preparations for an exhibition celebrating his late wife, renowned photojournalist Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert). It has been three years since her death but nobody seems to have moved on. Eldest son and new father Jonah (a gaunt Jesse Eisenberg) feels obliged to return home where his teenage brother Conrad (an excellent Devin Druid) is a silent, sullen presence who seems scarily likely to mastermind a high school massacre, while the righteous, sarcastic Jonah becomes less likeable the more time we spend with him. This is a fragile family unit that is all sharp edges and guilty secrets.
These secrets are revealed over the course of a film that also uncovers the very different perspectives that each of them retain on a woman, wife and mother who may have taken her own life, rather than been the victim of a tragic car accident. Images from Isabelle’s photojournalism and a sense of her guilty devotion to her career (much like the recent Juliette Binoche film A Thousand Times Good Night) are woven throughout a mournful film that revisits certain scenes from a different viewpoint, allows us to hear inner monologues, and shows flawed characters trying to make the best of their imperfect lives. It is an intelligent, absorbing and stylishly constructed drama that confirms the promise of Trier’s earlier work.
Screening as part of Cannes 2015. General release TBC.