Joachim Trier’s Louder than Bombs is an unconventional, masculine melodrama. It’s a melodrama in the sense that it revolves around familial conflict, domestic secrets and intense emotions; masculine in the sense that it’s reserved, quiet and inarticulate.
Centring on the three men of a family (father Gabriel Byrne; his sons Jesse Eisenberg and Devin Druid) recovering from the loss of their matriarch (Isabelle Huppert, seen regularly in flashback), the film resonates on an uncomfortable frequency between emotional rigidity and emotional intensity. These men’s interactions are heightened by the weight of their shared history and shared trauma, but lessened by their reluctance to overtly express their emotional truth.
Instead of the heated confrontations that typify the traditional melodrama, Trier delves into these men’s subjective experiences through a fractured, non-linear narrative that regularly branches off into dreams and imaginings. We come to understand the father and the two boys even as they are unable to understand one another. The overall impression is paradoxical; at once intimate and detached.
The film is expertly crafted and precisely acted; it is, however, limited by the familiarity of its narrative which, at the end of the day, is just another meditation on grief, loss and secrets.