Louder then Bombs
Starring Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid, Amy Ryan, David Strathairn
Fractured would have been a better title. In fact, in Paris this film is called Back Home, due to the recent terror attacks. Louder than Bombs is the first English language film from Danish writer/director Joachim Trier and I do hope he makes more. It’s rare to have a film about a family, in this case a father and two sons, where each character gets near identical screen time and is developed as much as we see here. All three performances by the male leads Byrne, Eisenberg and Druid lend themselves to the films heavy and often difficult journey. Trier explores many variations of pain and disconnect as one family struggles, even years later, to cope with the loss of their wife/mother, as they continue to uncover dark aspects of her life.
Eldest son Jonah (Eisenberg) and his wife Amy (Megan Ketch) have just welcomed a child at the hospital. His younger brother Conrad (Druid) still lives at home with their widowed father Gene (Byrne), as they continually distance themselves from each other. Gene’s wife Isabelle (Huppert,) was one of the worlds most discussed and sought after war photographers. Risking her life to take the photographs no one else would or could. Only weeks into her retirement from traveling war torn cities, Isabelle was killed in a car accident. The family has moved on years later, but a new article in the New York Times focuses on the unpublished reason of her death and promoting an exhibition of her work. Gene, Jonah and Conrad all have very difference versions of Isabelle in their mind, but they all must face the truth as the expose hits the stands.
Trier never gives the audience the scenes they want, need or expect. He gives them something else, something that always dances around the expected moment.
Few films deal with a widower trying to raise teenagers, I can’t recall the last one if any. Byrne is one of the most underrated and often underappreciated international actors working today. His performance here, interacting with a troubled teenage son, is some of his best work. Trier writes these characters with such nuance that they seem startlingly real, identifiable and fully understood. I see why Oscar nominee Eisenberg (Batman v Superman) was cast here, he is the king of A-holes, playing one yet again. However, his performances are all starting to blend together, and while I fully believe his character, this role could have been even stronger with a different actor. It’s newcomer Druid that steals the film with eyes that appear like flood gates holding back the pain we already know he feels.
Every time you think you know where Louder than Bombs is headed, the film changes character perspectives to show something additional. This is again most effective between Gene and Conrad. I feel like flashbacks are entirely overused, especially in indie dramas, but here we get an entire fully realized character and performance out of each character’s flashback featuring Isabelle. Trier never gives the audience the scenes they want, need or expect. He gives them something else, something that always dances around the expected moment. It’s a quiet, soft film that speaks volumes without raising voices or developing scenes through arguing. Louder than Bombs is about the silence, the aftermath and coping mechanism of family.
An engaging, well-acted and immersive drama about men facing tragedy.