Director: Joachim Trier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert & Gabriel Byrne
Synopsis: The fractious family of a father and his two sons confront their different feelings and memories of their deceased wife and mother; a famed war photographer.
Rating: 15 Duration: 109 minutes Release date: 15 August (UK)
Louder Than Bombs is a difficult film to review; it features some fine actors, Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne and Isabelle Huppert, who are doing good work, but director Joachim Trier’s English-language debut is a monotonous journey through a family’s grief and trouble as they attempt to deal with the death of their wife and mother. While it should be applauded for providing audiences with a more intellectual drama than Hollywood generally produces, there is a tedium that quickly takes control over the film that it never quite recovers from.
After her death, Isabelle Reed’s (Huppert) work as a decorated war photographer is to become the subject of an exhibition and an article in The New York Times. Her widower Gene (Byrne) has his concerns over the article and the ramifications it will have on his youngest son Conrad (Devin Druid). Meanwhile, his other son Jonah (Eisenberg) is shying away from his new found responsibility as a father while embarking on an affair with a childhood friend. The plight of the Reed family is encompassed by their collective failure to deal with the death of mother and wife Isabelle, who haunts their lives throughout the film.
It may seem unfair to be negative towards a film that clearly has some lofty ideals, but no matter how intelligent a film wants to be or how much it should be praised for hoping to deliver a truly emotional drama it cannot escape the fact that is unbearably dull. Films, of any genre, are meant to provoke thought and insight and maybe even force the audience to ask questions of themselves, but most importantly they should entertain. That’s not to say Louder Than Bombs requires a few cheap gags or anything like that, but something was surely required to alleviate the fatigue that creeps over the film, which once there never loosens its grip.
It must be said though, Louder Than Bombs is a noble effort and all involved should be commended for their efforts. Director Joachim Trier is a name to keep an eye on for the future, while Jesse Eisenberg and Gabriel Byrne work very well together as a father and son struggling to come to terms with the cards that life has dealt them. Devin Druid’s troubled teen meanders between snide and damaged, but doesn’t hit the nail on the head when it comes to drama and comes across more like a spoilt brat. Amy Ryan and David Strathairn’s characters feel more like cameos and Isabelle Huppert’s deceased photographer floats around somewhat innocuously.
It’s a shame that Louder Than Bombs is so lacklustre and devoid of life, as it feels like more was deserved from this effort. It may have worked better in some other form, but as it stands Louder Than Bombs is a weary film that trudges along at an awful pace that never engages its audience.
- Interview with Joachim Trier
- Behind the scenes