Louder Than Bombs: Review

Director: Joachim TrierStarring: Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle HuppertOut: April 8thWhat does grief breed? Does it breed anger? Apathy? Fear? Does it instead breed positive things, such as happiness, patience or empathy? These are the questions Joachim Trier’s film Louder Than Bombs asks. It follows Gene Reed (Gabriel Byrne) as he tries to relate to his emotionally damaged youngest son, Conrad (Devin Druid) and his fearful oldest son Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) all while dealing with the reality of the death of his wife Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert) five years previously.Louder Than Bombs is a sensitive and artistic film. However, this sensitivity impacts the story at times. Grief is a raw emotion and this can often translate into rampant and ugly scenery chewing or more subtle, private moments that are ultimately better expressions of such a personal moment. This film aims for the latter with only some success. Despite a great deal of realistic dialogue and narration, the script feels like it’s tiptoeing around the issue.The title Louder Than Bombs seems like a reference to how explosive and violent grief can be, but nothing in the film properly alludes to this. Much of this sensitivity is offset by Trier’s superb direction. Fast paced montages glide seamlessly into pastoral, out-of-focus flashbacks. It is in the montages that the themes of life, death and rebirth are put across exceptionally well. The film however would be little more than a meditative art piece without the subtle, meditative and yet all too real performances of its cast.Byrne’s character, Reed, is a man at war with himself. His wife’s death has disconnected him from his sons and from himself. He is adrift, incapable of doing the right thing and often failing to make decisions when they matter most. Like every character in the film he is deeply flawed. Devin Druid plays Conrad, the social outcast; absorbed in online gaming, the internet and impossible romantic fantasies. He can be difficult to relate to because of his dissociative behaviour, but ultimately he is more sympathetic for it. Eisenberg’s Jonah is his mother’s son. He seeks to separate himself from his responsibilities just like she did in her job as a war photographer. These characters are flawed because of grief. Grief has changed them, just like it changes everyone in the end.In a nutshell: A timid but artistic look at personal grief and how it resolves itself in different ways.