Joachim Trier marks his debut into English-language territory with Louder Than Bombs, a well-acted yet disjointed and frustrating piece that promises a fascinating character study. While I’ve not particularly fallen head over heels for Trier’s previous films (in spite of loving Oslo, August 31st), he always presents very intimate pictures of the human soul on the screen and I’m not so sure I was able to dig much into what I was witnessing in Louder Than Bombs because in spite of the dedication I was seeing on the screen, I felt extremely detached.
There’s a universality present in Louder Than Bombs with the themes which it pictures on the screen and while I very much admire Trier for his intentions, I’m not exactly sure that he realizes what potential they could have reached. Although it’s clear in Oslo, August 31st that he understands the roughness to the environments which inhabit the worlds of drug addicts, I was left unsure what I was really feeling about watching Louder Than Bombs because it seemed as if the idea he was tackling was too large to the point it only started rambling, for although I very much saw lots of good, I felt at such distance.
We watch three separate narratives whom are united together after the death of the mother in the family. After Isabelle’s death, we are also watching Gene and his sons Jonah and Conrad attempt to reconnect, after what may or may not have been a suicide. There’s very much an intent to capture a sense of grief amongst the family members and at that, Louder Than Bombs indeed managed to reach a specific success but while I admire the nuances that are present on the screen I had been struggling to form any sort of connection to these characters the whole time, which left me rather disappointed because of how the ground established for what we have here could have reached heights.
Amongst the ensemble, Jesse Eisenberg stands out as the troubled elder son Jonah. The quiet emotional dedication inside of these performances is what lifts Louder Than Bombs to the very highest of its own strengths. Isabelle Huppert is fine, as she’s never bad at least in every film which I’ve seen her in, but I always feel as if her scenes seem like they are forced into what already was a picture of grief that I was struggling to connect with in the first place. At least then, the performances from the young Devin Druid and Amy Ryan back up as a means of restoring balance within the mixed bag we’re left with.
Maybe my biggest problem was how I felt that there was no clear focus being made with the interweaving storylines. We have so much good intention at hand, and I know that Joachim Trier’s films are lifted up because of such, but with the case of Louder Than Bombs, he and Eskil Vogt seem to aspire to reach heights that are way too big to the point that what we’re left with is a family rambling about their attempts to reconnect with one another, creating an incredibly disjointed feel.
To some extent I can very highly recommend Louder Than Bombs at least to see some of the best performances from younger actors within recent years given the notable Devin Druid, but as much as I wanted to like this, I feel that the means of interweaving the narratives is too fractured for a viewer like myself to truly connect with. Louder Than Bombs has so many moments of beauty, but ultimately the fragmentation of its presentation pushed me further and further away. At its core we have a truly admirable product but unfortunately I can’t very much say that I rather liked what I’ve received.
Watch the trailer right here.
All images via SF Norge A/S.
Directed by Joachim Trier
Screenplay by Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt
Produced by Joshua Astrachan, Albert Berger, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Thomas Robsahm, Marc Turtletaub, Ron Yerxa
Starring Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid
Release Year: 2015
Running Time: 109 minutes