This is a capsule review. A full review will be posted closer to release.
On the cusp of opening his feature career with a trio of critically acclaimed films, Joachim Trier put the trifecta in jeopardy by making his third film, Louder Than Bombs, also double as the Norwegian director’s English-language debut. The hallmarks of a small-scale crossover are all here: Louder Than Bombs is an intimate portrait of family dysfunction that balances heavy subject matter on the head of an American-headlined, but international cast. Instead of just using the higher profile to get a foot in Hollywood’s door, Trier, and screenwriting partner Eskil Vogt once more illustrate why their characters and stories translate so well with audiences.
An empty space exists between suburban father Gene (Gabriel Byrne), his adult son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), and Conrad (Devin Druid), the baby of the family. Isabelle (French icon Isabelle Huppert) has been dead for years, and the specific relationships she shared with her husband and sons greatly affects how they’ve been able to cope. Through dreams, memory, and imagination, all woven into a few unspectacular fall days, Isabelle becomes as much a part of Louder Than Bombs as the three men approaching different stages in their lives and recovery.
The ironic quietude of Louder Than Bombs’ melancholy would be monotonous without the lyrical manner in which Trier transitions between perspectives, narrative techniques, and points in time. Toying so much with rhythm and form leads to inevitable valleys amidst the peaks, but the shifts help to reveal complexity to the characters and performers that Louder Than Bombs keeps you bracingly close to. What could devolve into a Mexican standoff between three hurting family members develops into an untidy and believable examination of equally shared, but uniquely experienced grief.
Strong performances and direction allow the smartly assembled Louder Than Bombs to ring true.