Tick, tick, tick …

Louder Than Bombs

Opens Friday, May 13. Pageant Theatre. Rated R.
Rated 3.0

This English-language drama from Norwegian director Joachim Trier stocks its 109-minute running time with enough multicharacter family drama to support a long-running miniseries. It feels a little as if someone had tried to compress a very big and intricate novel into a dense, intensely evocative short story.

Trier and co-writer Eskil Vogt have the benefit of an excellent cast and crew, and the script for Louder Than Bombs weaves a wealth of intriguing issues (social, political, aesthetic, etc.) into the psychological fireworks of its central story. The first half of the film impresses and disturbs with its multileveled barrage of mysteries, and the second half retreats (perhaps unavoidably) to safer and more pedestrian territory in order to provide, perhaps, at least some semblance of emotional closure for the main characters.

Jesse Eisenberg plays the older of two sons, Jonah, a newlywed who has just become a father for the first time as the film begins. The younger brother, Conrad (Devin Druid), is an awkward and unhappy teenager, a sensitive misfit who’s desperate for some kind of emotional connection. The father (Gabriel Byrne), a former actor turned schoolteacher and housedad, is a model of parental flexibility, which perhaps makes him a less substantial fixture in the family’s emotional life.

Amy Ryan and David Strathairn make strong contributions in the key supporting roles. The richly atmospheric cinematography of Jakob Ihre is an important part of the film’s appeal.