An admirable attempt to display the affects bereavement can have on various members of a family. The family in question are the Reeds, of whom the mother played by Isabelle Huppert is killed in a car crash. Three years after the death of Isabelle Reed, the film begins shortly after older son Jonah Reed (Jesse Eisenberg) has his first child and visits the home of his father and younger brother. A very fractured and challenging relationship is not helped by Conrad’s (Devin Druid) father (Gabriel Byrne) being a teacher at his school and is sleeping with one of Conrad’s other teachers.
I felt the film focused too closely in on the each other characters. There were some tremendously accurate points on male teenage life and coping with loss, however I definitely thought the story focused far too much on Jesse Eisenberg’s character who to me was a lot less interesting than Conrad Reed (Devin Druid). I can’t help but think if this wasn’t Trier’s first American film then the casting might have been different and there might have been more risks taken.
Despite this, there wasn’t too much to challenge the film on – which in of its self is kind of the biggest criticism. The film could have been far superior to what it is if there was more attention to detail which you come to expect from Trier films; Oslo, August 31st and Reprise. But the film struck me as being a quick process for the actors and if they had more time to work on the project together then we might have seen better chemistry between Eisenberg and Byrne, Byrne and Huppert, and Byrne and Ryan. This is in no way a sleight on Byrne, his character was just highly reliant on relationships and was the crux which could have held the film together.