Film Review: Force Majeure

The admittedly very little Swedish cinema that I have seen over the years seems to share a similar approach in its direction; a rather cold, aloof, yet intense style.

‘Force Majeure’ is no exception.

I say cold and aloof as a good thing in this instance and a refreshing antidote to the plethora of overblown CGi-fests that come spewing from the Hollywood machine with such depressing regularity.

Ironically, Force Majeure actually sounds like it should be a big budget, Hollywood action flick but the truth is far from this.

It’s a film stripped back to the bare essentials, exposing characters and their intensifying troubles, warts and all.

Tomas, Ebba and their family are taking a luxurious ski trip in the French Alps. Importantly, it’s a rare opportunity for hard-working Father Tomas, to spend some quality time with his two children, Harry and Vera.

Things don’t turn out quite as relaxing as they might have hoped for though. An apparently close brush with death in the form of an on-rushing avalanche, shakes them all up considerably, but it’s in the wake of this incident that the story starts to unfurl.

Tomas’ gut reaction in the face of this impending snowy doom is to flee rather than staying put to protect his family and it is this that plants the seeds of trouble, upheaval and doubt within the family unit.

Ebba’s faith in Tomas is potentially,  irrevocably affected, as she finds it increasingly difficult to live with this memory and stand by her man.

Tomas is insistant that the truth has simply been lost in the understandable confusion of fear and adrenalin, but with first the children’s demonstrable disapproval and then Ebba’s reluctance to simply brush events under the carpet, things are always likely to unravel… and how!

Force Majeure is expertly directed by Ruben Östlund. It’s refreshingly open and uncluttered and in Johannes Kuhnke and Lisa Loven Kingsli, there are performances of subtlety yet great conviction.

The luxurious Alpine ski resort is the perfect setting, for there is a lingering sense that whilst it’s a welcome, cosy and relaxing retreat, there is, much in the sense of Kubrik’s ”The Shining,’ also no place to go; certainly no place to which Tomas can escape, away from the festering circumstances that increasingly plague him and place him in ‘relationship dock.’

It’s a challenging piece; a film that, within the bounds of the family dynamic, investigates gender roles and more importantly gender ‘expectations’ in a world of increasingly blurred lines between the two.

It’s also a film of subtle optimism with a reassuring message that no matter how much we mess up, there’s always tomorrow and the chance that life will throw us an olive branch when we least expect it.

It’s important that we grab it and tread that unexpected yet very welcome path to salvation.

Force Majeure: Highly recommended.


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