THE FIRST English-language feature from Norwegian director Joachim Trier (a distant relation of Lars von, and officially my preferred Trier), Louder Than Bombs is one of those movies that builds a small, nondescript, yet utterly convincing domestic world without seeming like it's trying too hard. Trier's film has the cerebral, elliptical quality of a great short-story collection, and an easy intimacy with its central family of grieving men, who face a terrible crossroads after the death of their matriarch, war photographer Isabelle (Isabelle Huppert).
Isabelle's bereft husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), finds himself struggling to connect with his two sons—Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), who's channeled his feelings about his mother's death into success as an academic, and Conrad (Devin Druid), who's kind of a teenage jerk. Byrne, Eisenberg, and Druid inhabit their characters with zero scenery chewing, delivering a thoroughly convincing, restrained-but-not-too-restrained portrait of a family who aren't so much dysfunctional as they are understandably wounded—and compulsively likeable, even in their worst moments.
What might be a delayed but rather obvious revelation in a more conventional film comes out early in Louder Than Bombs: Isabelle's death wasn't an accident, but a suicide. Refusing suspense or ambiguity around her death frees up the film to reckon with more interesting questions—chief among them Gene and Jonah's disagreement over whether to tell Conrad the truth about what happened to his mother. There's precision in this narrative choice, and Trier brings that same precision to a million other choices throughout the film, building it all to a resonant, satisfying, and haltingly hopeful film. Each moment here has weight, and each moment adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts.