Louder Than Bombs is Joachim Trier’s English language debut after becoming somewhat of a critics darling after his Norwegian language films. Trier enlists a stunning range of great actors for the film such as Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert and John Sayles’ go to actor David Strathairn. It had its premiere at Cannes and had an indie theatre run and is now being released on home video.
It’s a drama about a American middle class family in turmoil, Gabriel Byrne plays Gene the father of two young men one who is still a teenager Conrad (Devin Druid) and his older son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) who is a professor and has recently became a father himself. His wife and the son’s mother played in flashback by Isabelle Huppert died by her own hand and this will soon be revealed n newspaper article by her former colleague played by David Strathairn. However due to trying to shelter his younger son Gene didn’t tell Conrad the truth of his mother’s passing and is trying to figure out a way to break the news to him. Simultaneously a major show of the mother’s photojournalism is about to happen.
The performances given the talent involved are perfectly good and Byrne is the standout and it’s a real blast to see him on-screen again in a meaty role. Devin Druid is the weak link who comes off a wimpy little shit who needs some sense bitch slapped into him. Huppert who is everyone’s feel bad actress and does her best in the all too brief flashbacks. The political angle of her shooting photos in conflicts in the middle east doesn’t really gel for me. The metaphor of battlefields at home and abroad is a bit too heavy-handed as well. I think if the film just told the story of a family in crisis and made it more claustrophobic instead of cramming too much outside of the family; it would have worked better.
Joachim Trier is an interesting director and is indeed a distant relative of Lars Von Trier. He hasn’t quite fond his voice with this film, I haven’t seen the rest of oeuvre so can’t comment on those. It wears it’s ’70s American influences too much on its sleeves and doesn’t have the energy of the great American dramas of New Hollywood had. It also comes out of the tradition of meditative art cinema of Ozu and Bergman. Trier is certainly a director to look out for and he made a nice little drama here but I’m sure there are greater things to come from him.