A family torn apart by the mysterious death of their matriarch — this the narrative put forth in Joachim Trier’s “Louder Than Bombs.” As the mother and wife in the family, Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert) was a highly esteemed war photographer known for capturing the humanity in places torn apart by the ravages of war. In her life she was an ephemeral figure, never completely there, though present in her family’s hearts and minds.
The film opens on the family three years after the loss of Isabelle. Her colleague plans to write an article commemorating her life while unveiling the truth behind her death. All the while, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), the widower, is trying to cope with being a single parent, as well as a single man. His son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), the child prodigy, is now a young professor struggling with the transition from child to adult as a newlywed and new father to a baby girl. Conrad (Devin Druid), the moody teenager and Gene’s youngest child, seems to have been most affected by the tragedy, but as the story unfolds, we come to find that Gene and Jonah, as put together as they may seem, are barely keeping it together.
At the forefront of the film is its experimentation with storytelling tactics. The story jumps between past and present through flashbacks and memories, but also shifts between perspectives, sometimes visiting the same scene from different characters’ views. Few films are able to boast being able to effectively play with time in a film without taking away from the overall story, but this film accomplishes this feat.
Although the acting in the film was great, it was far from its most engaging aspect. What was most intriguing was the dichotomy Trier brings up concerning passion and obligation. Gene gave up his acting career to be a stay-at-home dad, while Isabelle traveled to these conflict zones, always putting her career before her own life or even the lives of her family. Typical portrayals of dysfunctional families have a workaholic father and stay-at-home mother, but “Louder” reverses the narrative. It’s an interesting role reversal that Trier did right with his film.
As a whole, “Louder Than Bombs” wonderfully combines experimental storytelling techniques along with a cast that brings the story full circle. Trier proves himself to be a masterfully skilled director, exploring how interwoven and conflicting family, job and time can be.
The film opens at the Lincoln Plaza Cinemas and the Angelika Film Center on Friday, April 8.
Email Dejarelle Gaines at [email protected]