Wednesday, September 16, 2015

TIFF 2015: Louder than Bombs

Louder Than Bombs (Norway, France, Denmark, 2015) directed by Joachim Trier, Ryerson Theatre, 12p, 108 minutes

It may be that Louder than Bombs is so appealing as a film because it depicts the dynamics of a family in the aftermath of the death of the mother as rather complicated and sometimes ugly. No one escapes scrutiny or censure here.

Gene Reed (Gabriel Byrne), a high school teacher and former actor, struggles with the death of his wife, Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), a highly respected and accomplished photojournalist who had killed herself four years before in a car crash. Isabelle's photographs are exceptionally beautiful and relevant (I would love to know who the real photographer is, they are mesmerizing). She travels the world and captures humanity at its most poignant. This makes the return home problematic; she always appears to be yearning for something else and seems ill at ease at home.

Gene takes solace in the arms of a sympathetic colleague at school unbeknownst to his sons. The two boys, Jonah and Conrad, vastly different from each other, pursue divergent paths in recovering from the tragedy. 

Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) is a gifted if intellectually overbearing young professor - highly talented, articulate but somewhat cold, much like his mother. He is also a new father who seems unsettled by the arrival of a new daughter and indulges in a dalliance with an old flame to alleviate some of the anxiety he is experiencing. 

Conrad (Devin Druid) is an awkward loner who is immersed in violent video games and obsesses over a girl in his class who doesn't even know his name.

Gene tries desperately to connect with the boys but mostly fails as many parents do. As we all do.

The performances are uniformly good. No one - perhaps with the exception of Byrne - appears likeable, least of all the sons but it is an honest portrayal. We are judgmental, angry, immature, in the face of tragedy. We blame each other, we blame ourselves. We are weak. We are confused. We are human. 

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