Review: Force Majeure

Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund’s subtle but intensely powerful drama sometimes feels like a Nordic Noir or even, at times, some kind of existentialist horror comedy – and yet no one gets hurt and not a drop of blood is spilled.

Swedish writer/director Ruben Östlund’s subtle but intensely powerful drama sometimes feels like a Nordic Noir or even, at times, some kind of existentialist horror comedy – and yet no one gets hurt and not a drop of blood is spilled. But, of course, everyone is shaken to their core, as everything they thought they knew, and everything they thought they could rely upon, is completely turned upside down. A well-off family travels to the French Alps for a skiing holiday, and the first day finds Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) and kids Harry (Vincent Wettergren) and Vera (Clara Wettergren) having a fine and happily exhausting time. However, when they’re later lunching at a mountainside restaurant and a ‘controlled’ avalanche gets closer than intended, Tomas is shocked to find himself fleeing and leaving the family to fend for themselves. Everyone is unhurt and initial shock turns to laughter for some, but Tomas cannot forgive himself for his cowardice. First the kids turn against him and, later, Ebba is forced to make him face his failings. Tomas then turns inward and begins the frightening process of interrogating himself, his role within the familial unit, and whether or not he can cope with, or truly deserves, being the family man he thought he was. Set against a beautifully snowbound backdrop, Östlund’s film seems simple in synopsis but proves deeply and uncomfortably complex, especially when Tomas’ old friend Mats (Kristofer Hivju) and his young girlfriend Fanni (Fanni Metelius) turn up and unwittingly step right into the middle of a mighty psychodrama. And does Tomas dare ask himself three of the scariest questions possible: Is he a bad father? Is he a bad husband? And is he a bad person? Force Majeure is in cinemas now. Rated M.

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