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Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid

Jesse Eisenberg, Devin Druid

“LOUDER THAN BOMBS” My rating: B+

109 minutes | MPAA rating: R

“Louder Than Bombs” is a sort of ghost story, though not of the white-sheet-bump-in-the-night variety.

The first American film from Norwegian auteur Joachim Trier is a quietly devastating study of a father and two sons cut adrift by the death — a suicide, it turns out — of their wife and mother, and how they are haunted by memories, doubts and uncertainties.

Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert, seen in flashbacks and dream sequences) was a photojournalist who specialized in war coverage, not so much of the fighting as of its human toll. Two years have passed since her late-night death in a car crash just miles from her suburban New York home.

Her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), a former actor now a teacher, has tried to keep his boys on an even keel. The oldest, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg) is a sociologist with his first university teaching appointment, a wife and a new baby girl.

The younger, Conrad (Devin Druid), is a brooding, uncommunicative loner who refuses to give his concerned father the time of day. It probably doesn’t help that Gene is on the faculty of Conrad’s high school, and thus always lurking just around the corner.

A gallery retrospective of Isabelle’s work is being planned by a journalist colleague  (David Strathairn), whose essay about his deceased friend specifically names her as a suicide.  While Jonah has long been aware of this, Conrad is still under the impression that her death was a random accident. Gene must find a way to tell him the truth.

There’s no shortage of pain in the screenplay by Trier and Eskil Vogt, but also a great deal of love. This achingly humanitarian work lacks a villain — in fact, all three men and the late Isabelle have their own flaws and frustrating facets. (more…)

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