This review was originally published in The National.
FOLLOWING the death of a celebrated warzone photographer (Isabelle Huppert), her widower (Gabriel Byrne) and their two sons (Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid) struggle to cope with her loss and to maintain their emotional connections while trying to move forward with their lives without the familial stability on which they’ve come to rely.
This quietly powerful English language debut from acclaimed Norwegian-Danish director Joachim Trier (Oslo, August 31st) explores the devastating and varied effect grief can have on the family unit.
It’s a film of lofty ambitions in the way it tackles universally relatable topics of grief and loss, and to Trier’s great credit he delivers satisfying pathos and gentle, grown-up understanding to a potentially trite and clichéd set of storytelling themes.
The director maintains a scalpel-sharp control of tone throughout that’s at once fascinating and fittingly uncomfortable, conjuring that believable sense of “what is the right thing to do and say?” that so often follows a death in the family.
Byrne puts in a touching performance as a lost soul of a father trying his best to keep his damaged relationships with his vastly different sons afloat, all the while carrying on a potentially destructive relationship with one of their teachers (Amy Ryan).
Eisenberg brings a refined complexity to the most level-headed of the three central characters, a son that little bit older and perceivably wiser than his younger brother (deeply impressive relative newcomer Druid) who has retreated into bedroom solitude and sullen silences.
The film’s title at least partly refers to the fact that the inner suffering of grief can often land with a louder proverbial noise than any of the bombs that fell on the mother’s photographic canvas of wartime horrors.
It’s a fascinating angle on the topic explored with grace and nuance, avoiding the pitfalls of schmaltzy melodrama to deliver a jabbing succession of subtly affecting moments that hold great power and catharsis.