Directed by: Joachim Trier
Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid
Ironically, the one thing Louder Than Bombs is in desperate need of is an explosion – of the dramatic, not dangerous variety. Although it’s no guarantee that such an eruption would be enough to suppress your sighs of disappointment upon discovering just how limited the fallout is from Norwegian writer/director Joachim Trier’s first foray into English-language filmmaking.
Deconstructing the prolonged personal pain felt by a family unit mourning the untimely loss of their matriarch, Trier’s story is steeped in sorrow, but it begins, tellingly, with a moment of purist happiness. The hand of a newborn baby clasps the finger of their father for the first time: an eternal promise of love and commitment forged without words. The eyes of this patriarch, however, show more apprehension than adoration.He is Jonah (Jesse Eisenburg): the eldest son of celebrated war photographer Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), who died in a car accident three years prior. Returning home to oversee an upcoming exhibition designed to celebrate Isabelle’s work, Jonah finds himself obliged to once more spend time with his withdrawn younger brother Conrad (Devin Druid), and estranged father Gene (Gabriel Byrne). Struggling to reconnect with one another, the three men regularly turn to the memories of their past, unable to find peace in the present.
Each man is ultimately searching for an escape; Jonah from responsibility; Conrad from reality; Gene from his recurring recollections of a life no longer lived. There’s a aching devastation ingrained within their souls, the richly nuanced performances of Jesse Eisenburg, Gabriel Byrne, and in particular Devin Druid forcefully capturing the psychological plight of their respective personas with poignancy: the audience’s growing connection with the trio is affectingly intimate.Trier’s direction delicately augments an air of sadness through a crisp colourscape and the cold, echoing piano keys of Ola Fløttum’s score. The tone is one of tender tragedy. But though it’s frequently moving, the despondent mood soon becomes so intense that it victimises the characters; flashbacks and abstract voiceovers juxtaposing together to form a Malickian mosaic of imagery and ideas that’s frustratingly fractured.
The routine spells of inner monologue are more pretentious than poetic: disruptions that distance you from the melancholic core; the forlorn script offering scant remuneration for your intellectual investment. Like the design of an incendiary device, the emotional wiring within Louder Than Bombs is charged with a volatile power, what a shame it is that Trier failed to press the detonator.