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  Louder Than Bombs Haunted
Year: 2015
Director: Joachim Trier
Stars: Gabriel Byrne, Jesse Eisenberg, Isabelle Huppert, Devin Druid, Amy Ryan, Ruby Jerins, Megan Ketch, David Strathairn, Rachel Brosnahan, Russell Posner, Maryann Urbano, Donna Mitchell, Harry Ford, Leslie Lyles, Luke Robertson
Genre: DramaBuy from Amazon
Rating:  6 (from 1 vote)
Review: Jonah Reed (Jesse Eisenberg) has been up all night with his wife Amy (Megan Ketch) in hospital, for she has given birth to their baby, and now they sit and marvel at this new life in the world, or they do until she starts to complain that she is hungry and he realises he has left the snack he promised her at home. He vows to make it up to her so heads off down the corridors in search of a vending machine since they agree hospital food is not the greatest, but as he does he happens to notice a young woman standing outside one of the rooms. She is Erin (Rachel Brosnahan), and she has just lost her mother; she is also an ex-girlfriend of Jonah's who is now under the impression he is there because his wife has died...

And he's not about to explain her error if it means he might be able to get back together with Erin for an affair, very much keeping his options open in a film that delved into the male psyche in light of bereavement and how three members of the same family who have lost the mother (Isabelle Huppert in flashbacks) cope or otherwise. Only one of those males was particularly sympathetic; Jonah comes on like a good guy, but we can tell from that opinion-setting opening sequence he is the most selfish of the trio, content to use whatever means he can to get the upper hand in his personal satisfaction. However, director Joaquim Trier posited, what if he is not as bad as that makes him appear?

It was a tricky proposition, and not one he entirely succeeded with as he pushed the audience's tolerance for these three characters as far as it could go without actually depicting them as rapists or murderers or some other illegally nasty piece of work. Jonah's brother was Conrad (Devin Druid), a surly, uncommunicative teen for whom grief means shutting down almost completely from the world and either sticking with passive aggression as a way of communicating or if that doesn't work out, then actual aggression is his preferred mode of expression. Trier gave him an interesting inner life, he is a good writer and carries a torch for an out of his league cheerleader (Ruby Jerins) to illustrate sensitivity, but you may be sceptical.

Not necessarily sceptical that Conrad was sensitive, more he was worth getting through to as his father Gene (top-billed Gabriel Byrne) wishes to: he was the sympathetic member of the Reeds. He goes about it in odd ways, such as effectively stalking his son after school when the boy does not immediately return home, or creating a character in an online RPG in the hope he can hang out with him in cyberspace if real life is too much to handle (his avatar ends up killed by Conrad's within five seconds of their eventual meeting). Nevertheless, Gene among all the Reeds comes across best, fumbling towards an understanding of his boys now that his wife is no longer there to help him out, and her method of exiting the Earth is the source of a lot of emotional troubles in itself. The death was ruled a suicide, as she drove her car one night into the path of an oncoming truck, apparently deliberately, though this is ambiguous, she may have been dozing off at the wheel.

The mother was not in this a whole lot, which would seem to be a misuse of an actress of great standing, but she managed to make her screen time count simply by being difficult to work out, to convey her enigmatic presence in her family's life to us. She was a photographer of war zones, and the implication is she has seen so much that is awful in life that she became sick of it in a Kevin Carter manner, so now one of her friends (David Strathairn), who may have been more than a friend, is putting on a show of her work it is dredging up those demons from the Reeds' past that have never really left the present. With a title that may be a reference to Elizabeth Smart's cult novel At Grand Central Station I Sat Down and Wept, or it may be to the compilation from indie rock behemoths The Smiths which was named after a phrase from it, you could see where Trier's sorry for themselves characters were coming from, and when the end arrived it was like a wave of oppression breaking on the shore of relief. But enjoyable? Depends how much of a wallow you want. Music by Ola Fløttum.
Reviewer: Graeme Clark

 

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