When a loved one dies, grief tends not to come all at once. Years later, you may feel stricken with the sudden memory of that person, or perhaps it has been a constant for all those years. This concept is played out in director Joachim Trier's LOUDER THAN BOMBS, a story of a family grieving their lost loved one.
After a lifelong career in photojournalism, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) quit to be with her family -- and after a short time, died in a car crash. The suspicion that her death was a suicide is kept quiet by her family -- her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), and her oldest son, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) -- though her youngest son, Conrad (Devin Druid), has been told that it was an accident. When a friend of the family (a journalist who traveled with Isabelle) decides to write a retrospective article sharing this information, Gene and Jonah must decide how to tell Conrad the bad news.
What follows is a very powerful story with fascinating characters. With a multitude of shades, there is undoubtedly a character that you will relate to: the single father desperately trying to connect with his son; the boy trying to sort out his weird, adolescent feelings and teenage angst; the young man trying to avoid his new family to wrestle with the past. None of them are perfect -- but all of them are painfully real.
The cinematography sets a very intimate atmosphere, a decision not unfamiliar to Trier, whose past work (OSLO, AUGUST 31ST) is just as powerful. The only drawback to the film is its use of dreams, which narratively are used to tap into characters' inner conflict, but which never go beyond the conversations into which they are introduced. But it allows for quiet moments amidst the cast, who meshed beautifully. Byrne and Druid give compelling performances, but Eisenberg steals the show, giving possibly the most complex performance of his career with a character who is so easily lovable and hatable all at once.
This isn't a happy film, by any means, with a cut-and-dry story -- but it is a refreshing glimpse into reality. LOUDER THAN BOMBS is playing at Midtown Cinema starting 4/22!