An upcoming exhibition celebrating photographer Isabelle Reed three years after her untimely death, brings her eldest son Jonah back to the family house - forcing him to spend more time with his father Gene and withdrawn younger brother Conrad than he has in years. With the three of them under the same roof, Gene tries desperately to connect with his two sons, but they struggle to reconcile their feelings about the woman they remember so differently.
Joachim Trier's third feature film, and first English-language film. See more »
[catching his brother dancing]
Oh my God! That was so weird! Oh my God, dude, you're like the Billy Elliot of hip-hop. Hey, hey man I'm sorry, that was funny, it was really weird but it was funny. It was funny. It's funny, funny.
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Most coming-of-age films lean on the romantic comedy or melodrama for shape and structure, usually with a linear storyline that leads to a metaphorical awakening or some other resolution. As you might expect from a Norwegian director, Louder than Bombs (2015) avoids this well-trodden approach by telling a multi-layered fractured tale that looks more like a thriller than a teen-drama. Adolescents who clam-up tightly to exclude the world while they catch up with its emotional challenges are common stories. The one in this film is like a bomb about to explode and his story forms the narrative spine along which several sub-plots radiate in all directions.
Conrad is an introspective young war-gamer who has closed off to the world since his famous war photographer mother Isabelle was killed three years ago. He keeps to himself at school and defiantly ignores his well-meaning ex-TV star father. A photo exhibition is planned to commemorate Isabelle's work and a former colleague plans an article that will reveal the secret truth of Isabelle's suicide. Conrad has been shielded from this truth, as well as from the affairs of his father and brother. Over-protection has increasingly isolated him until he tries to connect with a girl in class. It's a complex non-liner plot line with several flashbacks that shift across narrative lines to create the visual effect of a perfect storm of fractured people. Isabelle's war images and her memory keep appearing but the battle we are seeing is raging in the minds of those she left behind who struggle to move on with their lives.
The film has an unsettling asymmetrical style about it. You find it in the withholding of truths, in the gender inversion of a war zone mother and a TV soapies father, and in hair-trigger Conrad lashing out in all directions. While the acting is often melodramatic, the filming is edgy with sharp editing cuts and sudden discordant images that feel out of context (like tumbling aerial schoolgirls). It has an uneven but reflective pace that disorients the viewer and leaves them uncertain how the story can hold together. But through the foggy mess of their lives appears hope for better times. More art-house than spoon-fed, the film feels refreshingly free of clichés and leaves you thinking about the impact of distant memories on daily lives.
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