Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB.
Norway/France/Denmark, 2015. Motlys, Animal Kingdom,Arte France Cinema, Beachside Films, Bona Fide Productions, Canal+, Centre National De La Cinematographie, Cine+, Fonds Eurimages du Conseil de l’Europe, Memento Films Production, Nimbus Film Productions. Screenplay by Joachim Trier, Eskil Vogt. Cinematography by Jakob Ihre. Produced by Joshua Astrachan, Albert Berger, Alexandre Mallet-Guy, Thomas Robsahm, Marc Turtletaub, Ron Yerxa. Music by Ola Flottum. Production Design by Molly Hughes. Costume Design by Emma Potter. Film Editing by Olivier Bugge Coutte. Cannes Film Festival 2015. Toronto International Film Festival 2015.
A family is in shreds following the death of their matriarch (Isabelle Huppert), a photographer famous for her unflinching images of conflict zones who gave up war zones for suburbia and died in a car accident. Her husband (Gabriel Byrne) is at a loss as to how to communicate with his angst-ridden teenage son (Devin Druid), while his elder son (Jesse Eisenberg) has come home after the birth of his own child to spread his self-doubt and tell everyone what to do. David Strathairn appears as a colleague of Huppert’s who is going to do a piece on her that will reveal the less than accidental nature of her death, which means Byrne has to make sure that he and his boys can get their grief under control before the outside world is made privy to their family business. Beautifully photographed and rich with memorable images, this is a plastic drama that sees director Joachim Trier hiring actors for what they are already known for doing, Byrne the sad-eyed and passive emotional poet, Strathairn with his shifty but intelligent demeanor and Eisenberg’s cutting, obnoxious intonations. Most exploited is Huppert in a role that appears to have been written for her (it’s named after her, for a start), her familiar deep gazes mined endlessly without dramatic purpose. All attempts to get something juicy out of the material fail thanks to vague hints at themes that never bear fruit: between the young son’s confusion over his first high school love, Eisenberg’s philandering response to becoming a father, Byrne waking up to regrets of what he gave up for a woman who no longer exists, not to mention Huppert’s past feelings of ambivalence about her work versus her family, the plot definitely bites off more than it can chew. The insincerity of everything involved is what is most frustrating, as Trier stabs at these peoples’ wounds but fails to draw any blood.