A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Louder Than Bombs is a drama about a father and two sons dealing with the loss of their dearly departed wife/mother, a world-renowned conflict photographer. The movie features some disturbing images, mostly of war-torn areas and dead human and animal bodies. There's strong language right from the start, including "f--k," "s--t," "a--hole," and more. Sexual content includes discussion of masturbation and a couple of love scenes -- one with partial nudity (bare shoulders, a brief glimpse of a woman's bare breasts in bed). Characters -- including teens -- drink (one teen gets very drunk). The story also touches on mature issues like suicide, adultery, and dysfunctional family relationships.
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What's the story?
LOUDER THAN BOMBS is a drama about three men grieving the devastating loss of a remarkable woman. A few years after the tragic death of renowned conflict photographer Isabelle Reed (Isabelle Huppert), curators planning a retrospective of her photographs ask her husband, Gene (Gabriel Byrne), whether there are any personal effects they could use in the exhibit. Her former colleague/friend, Richard (David Strathairn), also warns Gene that he plans to write about the truth of Isabelle's death -- that her accident was actually a suicide -- in a New York Times story promoting the photography show. Gene enlists his oldest son, Jonah (Jesse Eisenberg), a brand-new father, to sort through Isabelle's home studio and wonders whether to tell younger son, loner high-schooler Conrad (Devin Druid), about the suicide. Once all three Reed men are in the same house, they deal with various emotional issues as they remember the wife and mother they all miss.
Is it any good?
Poignant and evocative, this well-performed drama explores how grief affects a father and two sons missing the extraordinary woman in their lives. Byrne and Eisenberg give heartfelt performances as a father and son who have vastly different memories of the same woman; to Eisenberg's Jonah, his mother was brilliant, cool, and brag-worthy, whereas to Byrne's Gene, she was a complicated and occasionally self-absorbed wife who would purposely choose work over her family. Then there's newcomer Druid, whose performance is the most impactful. Conrad's a hard-core gamer but doesn't seem to have any real friends; even Jonah thinks he's too weird to thrive socially in high school and should just wait until college to find his people.
Director Joachim Trier includes many effective flashbacks to different key points involving Isabelle and her men. Conrad, who's obsessed with death, is a bit of an exception as he holds on mostly to tiny moments like a hug or a long-ago game of hide and seek. Amy Ryan gives a lovely, understated performance as Conrad's teacher, who's also secretly in a relationship with Gene. Another subplot follows the married Jonah as he reunites with a former flame whose mother is dying of cancer and allows her to believe that his own wife is also cancer-stricken. These guys have troubled -- and troubling relationships -- but who can blame them, Trier is asking, when they don't know how to be themselves without Isabelle? This isn't an easy film to watch, but it's a touching and intimate look at a family that was left behind after a self-destructive artist's demise.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the depiction of violence in Louder than Bombs' flashbacks. Does violence affect you differently when it's realistic rather than stylized? What's the impact of media violence on kids?
How does the movie depict parent-child relationships? Why do the sons have fragile connections with their father -- and each other?
Are there any role models in the movie? Who acts in a way that you find admirable?
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