By Daniel Barnes
Denmark-born, Norway-based filmmaker Joachim Trier scored a critical hit in 2012 with the dark-night-of-the-soul drama Oslo August 31st. That somewhat overpraised film followed a recovering junkie descending back into addiction over a long night. The more appropriately praised Louder Than Bombs is Trier’s long-awaited follow-up and English-language debut. While it’s just as mysterious and mopey as its predecessor, the structures and themes fall more in line with dime-a-dozen American suburban angst dramas.
An authentic ensemble piece, Louder Than Bombs features Jesse Eisenberg, Gabriel Byrne and Devin Druid as the surviving family members of Isabelle Huppert’s free-spirit photojournalist, a woman whose suicide continues to haunt them all. Every one of them is burning to tell their story (even the dead woman), to reshape their lives into something they can abide, while also struggling to keep their true selves hidden.
Trier allows memory and memoir to waft together like curls of smoke, and while it’s all quite beautifully constructed and well-acted, it also wallows in the same wishy-washy style and casual exploitation as Oslo August 31st.
Of course, I could never completely write off any film that re-purposes the 1987 Shelley Long comedy Hello Again into its characters’ universe. Otherwise, Louder Than Bombs is a humorless drag, not much more than tony, buttoned-up misery porn.