Gabriel Byrne Isabelle Huppert Jesse Eisenberg Devin Druid Amy Ryan David Stathaim
Louder than Bombs refers to the needs of this family of males crying out very loudly—not with their voices, but in their actions/inaction. The mother in the family, Isabelle (Huppert) is dead, and clearly, from the flashbacks, she had an emotional connection with each of the males, but we see little of the family all together. The marriage was clearly troubled, but this is not a family to reach out for help. Both sons are sorely in need of therapy as well. It’s a heartbreaking story for a psychologist to see, recognizing how much they could be helped if they only knew how.
Isabelle is an internationally recognized news photographer who is away from home a lot. She is typical of those we hear about who get such adrenaline rushes from their work, it keeps calling them back and they cannot resist, no matter how high the risks to family (Think Jeremy Renner in Hurt Locker and Juliette Binoche in A Thousand Times Goodnight). Isabelle’s husband (Byrne) is loathe to ask her to stop, even though he apparently sacrificed a promising acting career for the sake of his family. He is now a schoolteacher.
Jonah (Eisenberg), the oldest son, seems to have been closest to his mother, and their emotional exchanges show how much empathy he feels for her. He also has rapport with his father, and they have meaningful conversations, although Jonah doesn’t confide in his father about his marriage, even when he is going through a difficult time with it.
Conrad (Druid) is the most taciturn of all, seldom speaking to anyone, even the girl he has a crush on and walks home from a late-night party. He certainly won’t talk to his father, and rushes away any time his father tries to talk with him. Not surprisingly, his fantasy life is full of violence.
Among all these people, so much is left unsaid—even when they’re in excruciating pain—it’s astounding. These people are like ships passing in the night, and it’s hard to believe they’re under the same roof. But of course, there are families like this; they’re not a figment of the filmmakers’ imaginations.
I like the way the film shows each of the main characters’ points of view to show how different realities can be constructed and to encourage empathy with all of them. It illustrates the knowledge and sensitivities of Joachim Trier (writer/director) and Eskil Vogt (writer) about people and families.
Byrne has a history of expert renditions of soulful, informed characters (e.g., In Treatment) trying to reach people who are closed off to him. Huppert is one of those consummate portrayers of characters that get under the skin (The Piano Teacher) and incite controversy (Amour). Eisenberg is in a period where he is exploring all kinds of different roles, and here, he is skillful in showing an older brother with conflict in every realm of his life, yet coming across as sincere to everyone. Perhaps the youngest—Devin Druid—had the most difficult challenge of conveying so much with so little dialog, similar to Leonardo DiCaprio in the Revenant.
I congratulate Joachim Trier and his collaborators on bringing out once again the experience and repercussions of death—particularly one that is self-determined. This may be in the context of an unusually repressed family, but aspects of it will ring true to almost everyone.
Reverberating repercussions of a death, something you don’t want to see but should.
Grade: A By Donna R. Copeland