Wednesday, May 11, 2016

[Review] Louder Than Bombs

In his first English-language film, director Joachim Trier (a distant relative of Lars von Trier) presents Louder Than Bombs--a dour drama about a family mourning loss.

Gene (Gabriel Byrne) is currently overseeing an upcoming exhibition of work from his deceased wife Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), who was a renowned war photographer. Meanwhile, Gene struggles to connect with his morbid teenage son (Devin Druid). His eldest son, a college professor (played by Jesse Eisenberg), travels home to spend time with the family and sort through the gallery.

Despite the title, this is an immensely quiet film, thriving on subtle but potent moments of grief and somber reflection. Even though we sympathize with the characters, they're too flatly drawn to render themselves as particularly interesting or memorable. This aspect, combined with the snail's pace and mundane flashbacks--make the film difficult to engage in. The flashbacks should serve as a device for us to get to know Isabelle better, but they fail to do that because she's also thinly developed.

As for the good, there are some nice moments of beauty, poetic pondering, and flourishes of literary dialogue throughout. Reveals from the past create new conflicts in the present. The divisive Jesse Eisenberg (for the record, I think he's great) is one of the more intriguing aspects, breaking through the one-dimensional tone and making the best out of the material he's given.

While the film underwhelms, Louder Than Bombs does convey a certain truth--Sometimes the aftermath of a loved one's death comes with intense introspection and deafening silence.


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