Newspaper article International New York Times

Grieving Men, Quiet, Tense and Ready to Explode

Newspaper article International New York Times

Grieving Men, Quiet, Tense and Ready to Explode

Article excerpt

"Louder Than Bombs " is the first English-language film by the Norwegian director Joachim Trier ("Reprise," "Oslo, August 31st" ).

Louder Than Bombs. Directed by Joachim Trier.

"Louder Than Bombs," the first English-language film by the Norwegian director Joachim Trier ("Reprise," "Oslo, August 31st" ), is disarmingly quiet, not unlike the Smiths album that shares its title. Buried or deflected emotion -- conveyed through mordant remarks, pregnant glances, long stretches of silence -- can generate more impact than explosive drama. This counts as both an insight and a strategy: Mr. Trier's direction is as restrained and tense as the behavior of his characters, who suffer without making too much noise about it until they seem ready to explode.

They do most of their suffering in a leafy Hudson River town near New York City. Gene (Gabriel Byrne), a schoolteacher and former actor, drives his Volvo to work and tries to communicate with his teenage son, Conrad (Devin Druid). It's been a few years since the boy's mother, Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert), a well-known war photographer, died in a car crash, and he has withdrawn into video games and the kind of sullenness that is either perfectly normal or wildly alarming in a male adolescent.

Conrad's older brother, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), a newly fledged sociology professor with a newborn daughter, arrives to help his father sort out material for a retrospective of Isabelle's work. The three men, joined by Isabelle in flashbacks that are folded without warning into a mostly linear narrative, do their best to manage their grief and stay out of one another's way. Gene is consoled by his secret relationship with Hannah (Amy Ryan), a younger colleague, who is Conrad's English teacher. Jonah pretends he's not freaked out by fatherhood. Conrad develops a crush on a cheerleader named Melanie (Ruby Jerins), the kind of girl who would never look twice at a diffident, nerdy kid like him.

Or maybe she would. Mr. Trier, who wrote the screenplay with Eskil Vogt, mines the narrative with small surprises and reversals. …

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