Louder Than Bombs: achingly tasteful, well acted, frustratingly bland | Cannes Review

Norwegian Joachim Trier’s latest features Isabelle Huppert, Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg and very little else

Muffled: Gabriel Byrne and Amy Ryan in Louder Than Bombs

Film Title: Louder Than Bombs

Director: Joachim Trier

Starring: Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid

Genre: Drama

Running Time: 109 min

Mon, May 18, 2015, 13:09


Joachim Trier, Norwegian director of the piercing Oslo, August 31st, has made a film about somebody who is no longer here.

This achingly tasteful, very well acted film – playing in the main competition at Cannes – tiptoes cautiously around the family of a newspaper photographer who has recently killed herself by driving into a lorry. Isabelle Huppert turns up in flashbacks and visitations as the woman who is no longer with us. Gabriel Byrne plays the numbed widower failing to rally his two sons: teenager Devin Druid is psychopathically uncommunicative; twentysomething Jesse Eisenberg is drifting from his wife and new baby. None of these people is here. Edited at funeral pace, the film is wilfully reticent in peeling open the characters’ traumas. They meander blandly about bland suburbs and work through bland traumas that we are forced to assume must have something to do with the missing Huppert. There is no here here.

Already dividing critics on the Croisette, Louder than Bombs (can the title really be drawn from a Smiths compilation?) has already received praise for its taste and restraint. These are virtues to be cherished, but a more pungent whiff of what’s going on beneath the surface would be appreciated.

The plot, such as it is, hinges around a New York Times profile that old chum David Strathairn is writing about the dead woman. Her husband has kept the circumstances of her death from his youngest child. While carrying on an affair with the lad’s teacher (this makes the film sound more eventful than it actually is), he worries over the right strategies. Nothing much else goes on.

Louder than Bombs (which it most definitely is not) is drenched in superficial quality. Jakob Ihre’s cinematography paints the bland New York suburbs in pathetically fallacious dun shades. Byrne is as good as he has been for decades. Eisenberg once again hones his high-preppie sensibility. Huppert’s photographs look like news photographs staged for a film in the Cannes competition.

It looks, in short, like it might turn into a fine film whenever it finally gets started. We’re still waiting.

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