Louder Than Bombs
Jesse Eisenberg, Gsbirel Byrne, Devin Druid, Isabelle Huppert, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn,
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…a measured, meditative reflection on grief, memory and identity…
Norwegian director Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) makes his English language debut with this low key but quietly affecting family drama.
New father Jonah Reed (Jesse Eisenberg) returns to his New York family home to help sort through his late photographer mother, Isabelle’s (Isabelle Huppert) effects in preparation for an upcoming exhibition of her work. We get the feeling that it’s been a long time between visits; he’s distant from his well meaning but hapless father, Gene (Gabriel Byrne) and his younger brother, Conrad (Devin Druid), an alienated, moody teen who loses himself in online gaming for hours on end. It’s clear that the loss of their matriarch has sundered this family, but as they dig into her belongings and her past, all three come to question how well they really knew her, if at all.
Bouncing back and forth in time, Louder Than Bombs is a measured, meditative reflection on grief, memory and identity, as each of the three principal characters try to define themselves anew in the absence of the figure that tied them together. Byrne’s Gene is tentatively starting to date again, a development that further alienates Conrad. Jonah, fearful of living in his family’s shadow like his father did, embarks an an affair with an old flame. Conrad, for his part, has hidden depths, showing a flair for writing and observation, but still struggles with socialising. Amidst all this, the possibility that Isabelle was unfaithful forces even more self-reflection.
And that’s the key problem with Louder Than Bombs – it’s an introverted film, perhaps too understated for its own good, with dramatic “action” taking place in stilted exchanges and somber reveries. While it’s a pleasure watching actors of this calibre do their thing, and even relative newcomer Druid is great (he’s cropped up previously as the young Louis CK on Louie), the deliberate progression and gentle drama may be too much of a drag for some viewers. A little patience with this one will be rewarding, though.