Norwegian writer-director Joachim Trier’s new film Thelma is rolling out, so it’s a good time to check in with his recent – and overlooked – American movie Louder Than Bombs. All of Trier’s work (with his writing partner Eskil Vogt) focuses on the psychological, and Louder Than Bombs is an intricately constructed family drama.
Gabriel Byrne plays the father of two sons – a man whose vital wife (Isabelle Huppert) has died suddenly in middle age. His young adult son (Jesse Eisenberg) is superficially achieving, but it turns out, has some real issues. But the younger teen son (Devin Druid) is clearly troubled; the dad is trying, but he just can’t get ANY traction with younger son.
The unstable younger son is about to find out that his mother committed suicide, and Louder Than Bombs is a ticking clock, as we wait to see what happens when younger son finds out. The audience has an ever-present fear that tragedy is going to erupt.
In flashback, Huppert’s character is strong and Sphinx-like, ever dominating the three men she left behind. The rest of the cast is also excellent: Byrne, Eisenberg, Amy Ryan, Rachel Brosnahan, and David Strathairn. Young Devin Druid is a revelation as the younger son.
In Louder Than Bombs Trier employs flashbacks, dream sequences, and even the same scene replayed from a different point of view a la Rashomon.
Joachim Trier previously made Reprise, a wonderful film about sanity and the creative process in which two young novelists send in their manuscripts at the beginning of the film, just before one suffers a psychotic breakdown. Reprise was #4 on my list of Best Movies of 2008. w Trier’s next film was the well-crafted and utterly authentic Oslo August 31, which I didn’t like as much as most critics. Trier’s newest film, Thelma, opens this fall.
The critical response to Louder Than Bombs has been mixed from middling to rhapsodic. Right after seeing it, I wasn’t sure that I’d recommend it, but the film stayed with me for several days. Eventually, I realized that this is an excellent film to see and then mull over.
Louder Than Bombs is now available to stream from Amazon, iTunes, Vudu, YouTube, Google Play.