This English-language debut from acclaimed director Joachim Trier prospers from a seriously impressive lineup of acting talent. Gabriel Byrne and Jesse Eisenberg play the father and son trying to piece together their family following the death of Isabelle (Huppert), a famous war photographer whose assignments always came first, but whose passing still leaves a considerable void.
As each family member tries to process their loss, they react in different ways, behaving unpredictably in their attempts to forge new roles. While elder sibling Jonah (Eisenberg) tries to adopt the mantle of responsibility, auditing his mother’s archive and looking out for his insular and seemingly troubled brother Conrad (Devin Druid), the burden of unpacking the past seems to influence his own unexpected bout of recklessness. Norwegian director Joachim Trier follows his fine addiction drama Oslo, August 31st with a film that’s wider in scope but equally as incisive. It’s a small-scale American work that feels entirely different from most US indie films, with Trier bringing a distinct emotional sensibility to the work, bringing to mind another expatriate’s family tale, Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm. Switching between the past and present and as it follows its various characters’ concurrent stories, Trier’s drama is rich and complex in form while remaining perceptive and tactile in tone.