Force Majeure (Sweden | France | Denmark | Norway/15A/120mins)

Directed by Ruben Ostlund. Starring Johannes Kuhnke, Lisa Loven Kongsli, Kristofer Hivju, Brady Corbet.

THE PLOT: Not long into their skiing holiday, a family find themselves staring at potential disaster in the shape of an avalanche. Although physical disaster is avoided, it is not long before the family’s patriarch Tomas (Johannes Bah Kuhnke) finds his reaction to potential danger is under scrutiny, and the family dynamic is shaken to its core.

THE VERDICT: FORCE MAJEURE is an interesting film, which throws human instinct under the microscope, and leaves a man struggling to make up for and explain his actions during disaster. Johannes Bah Kuhnke does well in the leading role and, although his actions may sometimes he reprehensible, Kuhnke always manages to make Tomas’s actions feel honest. Lisa Loven Kongsli makes Ebba feel like a real person, whose actions, albeit not as dramatic as her husband’s, are no less questionable, and it is this dynamic and the feel of passive aggression that hangs over the film. The rest of the cast is made up of Vincent Wettergren, Clara Wettergren, Kristofer Hivju, Fanni Metelius and Karin Myrenberg.

Ruben Östlund’s story is an interesting one, but it is certainly not the tale of a man who’d rather save his iPhone than his family, as it has been touted. Instead,FORCE MAJEURE is the story of how the fallout of one simple event can change the dynamic of an entire group of people, before spilling over into the lives of those around them. By placing the family at a ski resort – a resort they are staying at for several more days – this gives the feeling of the family being trapped and, instead of talking about their issues together, allow them to boil over into passive aggression and resentment.

As director, Ruben Östlund makesFORCE MAJEURE a drama about a family, but also allows the characters’ resentments with one another to bubble up. As well as this, there is the feel that all this is the lead up to midlife crises for the heads of the family, but that’s another film for another time. The film is beautifully shot, but suffers through some drawn out pacing and seemingly endless arguments that are never resolved. This detracts from the energy of the film, as does continuous screaming from the child actors, which grates after a while.

In all, FORCE MAJEURE has an interesting central concept that gets a little lost through endless arguments, drawn out pacing and some unnecessary scenes. That said, the film is beautifully shot and, for the most part, feels honest in its portrayal of a family on the brink of imploding.

RATING: 3.5/5

Review by Brogen Hayes

Force Majeure
Review by Brogen Hayes
3.5Great Concept!
  • filmbuff2011

    Winner of the Un Certain Regard jury prize at last year’s Cannes Film Festival, Scandinavian film Force Majeure is a timely study of masculinity and how it’s defined in male-female relationships. Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and his wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are on holidays in the French Alps with their two young children. They’re the average nuclear family, but then something not-so-average happens to them. While eating lunch, they observe a controlled avalanche rolling down the mountainside. It starts to head towards them, then gets closer and closer. While Ebba’s immediate thought is to protect her children, Tomas grabs his phone and gloves and makes a run for it. The avalanche never reaches them, just stirring up some snow spray. Tomas returns to the table, unaware of his actions. Later on, Ebba confronts him but he’s in denial and has no recollection of abandoning his family. Cracks start to appear in their relationship, a fact observed by their children and a couple they meet. Just what made Thomas run? Force majeure is defined as an event or effect that cannot be reasonably anticipated or controlled. It’s an apt description for this prescient, witty study of gender roles in modern familial relationships. Tomas is your average joe – there’s no extraordinary about him, but yet he’s a bit of a manchild. Even his kids seem more clued in than he is about his actions. Working from his sharply-written script, director Ruben Ostlund makes some telling observations about the way men and women see things differently. The actors really sell their characters here, making them real rather than close-to-real. It’s a film with different twists and turns in character motivations, even right to the tense closing scenes – another sly dig at masculinity. Ostlund is presumably not being too critical about his own gender, just gently poking fun at how we perceive gender roles in our modern, equality-based society. An English-language remake is on the way, but it feels unnecessary. Parts of the film are in English anyway, so you’d be better off catching the original while it’s around. Force Majeure is a very good film which will certainly get people talking afterwards. ****