EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a capsule review. The full review will be released once the film hits theatres.
Two hours with Force Majeure is like playing tagalong with a deeply dysfunctional rich family on vacation: the friction and awkwardness is often unbearably painful, but, boy, is there going to be some very nice scenery to distract yourself with. The family in this case is a Swedish foursome spending five days in a palatial ski resort high up in the French Alps. With an ominous title card signaling the start of each day, accompanied by Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons,” the trip is marked for disaster.
All it takes is one small, split-second action, and an unspoken lynchpin holding the whole family together gets pulled. And like any family, the real stress comes not from addressing the incident, but by trying to work around it. Rationalizations and denial are used to cover up frightening realizations about assumed marital and gender responsibilities. Whether cooped up in their resort room or out on the slopes, tensions between family members only grow the longer “the thing that happened” goes ignored.
What makes Force Majeure such a treat isn’t just the slow teasing out of the marital drama, but the fact that it can do so believably, while also being screamingly funny. Director Ruben Östlund imbues cringe comedy with technical precision and resplendent visuals that usually have no place within the genre. He doesn’t have to undercut his characters by having them deliver punchlines. Force Majeure wryly explores matters left unspoken in a family, so careful staging and cutting is all Östlund needs to twist what should be tragedy into comedy.