Louder than Bombs is the third feature from Norwegian filmmaker Joachim Trier, who in 2011 bagged the Un Certain Regard award at the Cannes Film Festival for his film Oslo, August 31st. Last year he returned to the festival with his latest film, also his English-language debut, Louder than Bombs competing in competition, which also happened to hit theaters just recently.
The film basically follows the story of a fractious family of a father (Gabriel Bryne) and his two sons Jesse Eisbenberg and Devin Druid ) who find themselves confronting their different feelings and memories of their deceased wife and mother, a famed war photographer (Isabelle Huppert ) when an upcoming exhibition celebrating her life and work comes around.
Though I haven’t seen Joachim Trier’s either two previous films, it’s quite evident just by seeing this film that he is a very talented filmmaker, and most of this talent is exhibited in Louder than Bombs, especially when it comes to directing his actors and crafting strong, emotionally moving scenes. I think the film has it’s fair share of such moments, that really captivated me. It is a film that definitely has that emotional grip. The characters are compelling and the cast led by, Gabriel Bryne, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert and newcomer Devin Druid offer superb performances, especially Gabriel Bryne and Jesse Eisenberg. I think Gabriel Bryne, in particular gives possibly one of the best performances of his career as a father dealing both with the loss of his wife and one who struggles who connect with his two sons.
But despite hitting home with the emotion on a number of occasions, Louder than Bombs’s biggest strength often proves to be it’s biggest flaw as well, which is that the drama doesn’t always connect, and the emotional moments have the tendency to feel both overly melodramatic and overly contrived. The film remains a melodrama for all of it’s entirety but it’s biggest dramatic moments feel tame, and despite two very strong opening acts, the story begins to gradually lose both momentum and it’s dramatic heft as it progresses forward.
Louder than Bombs is a film that I admire quite a bit. I think it paints a compelling portrait of grief and loss, and dealing with such a circumstance. It’s solidly acted, and Gabriel Bryne, in particular is really good. But I think there are far too many dramatic contrivances that holds back the film, and despite two very compelling opening acts, the film feels meandering and unengaging by the end.