Force Majeure is a 2014 Swedish drama film directed by Ruben Ostlund which deals with quite difficult subject matter, does it right and is one of the best foreign films of the year.
It is about a family staying in the French Alps for a week where a controlled avalanche happens and the father runs away to save himself instead of helping the children and it later deals with the consequences of such a behavior and the fights between the two. This is such a simple but very unique idea which is not only clever and important but also executed flawlessly. It is riveting almost through the whole running time with its thought-provoking discussions and dialogue. It also has a great concept – the avalanche happens, she gets angry, then tells the story to a couple of friends at dinner and later those friends start questioning themselves as well. That is very interesting and also comedic at times. But it shows how the talk about potential situations can be almost just as difficult as the real one when couples are concerned. And the third act is excellent with him going mad for what he did and their coming to terms with it and making peace in the end. It was wonderful to see a strong, realistically portrayed family that had a huge problem, but managed to overcome that in a grounded way.
The characters are extremely well developed, each having a distinct personality and behavior. Tomas is excellent as the man who did this terrible thing and who has to apologize for it and make everything work out. He had to learn what it means to be a father and a husband and his troubles are portrayed in a great, realistic way. As for Ebba, she is again as realistic as Tomas with a somewhat annoying personality and she is not perfect herself which is evident in how she dealt with the situation. As for Vera and Harry, they are the most adorable children. The sequence when Tomas starts crying endlessly for what he did and the children come to hug him, feeling worried, is absolutely perfect and probably the highlight of the movie as it shows how children are afraid of divorce, how that thing can hurt them badly and how they just want their parents to be happy and to be together. It is a beautiful scene that can bring a smile to your face. As for Mats and Fanni, they are very good as well with being their goofy friends and they bring the comedic element to the table which was great for the tone.
I have a couple of problems with Force Majeure. First, the first act is way too slow and it is almost an unnecessary build-up how prolonged it feels. Also the editing could have been better as well as the pacing. And I have to mention that scene in the bar with all the drunk men yelling and behaving like utter idiots. That is a stupid and totally unnecessary scene which doesn’t belong there. Yes, some of the scenes and choices quite annoyed me, but thankfully those are in minority as the movie overall is outstanding.
I love how Force Majeure explored its complex themes. It is such a clever and relevant movie that everyone should watch. It asks the question whether in such extreme circumstances a man becomes an animal in order to survive, going fully to his instincts. It also subtly tells us that women are much better parents than men almost by default which is very true and it explores the differences between the sexes perfectly. It also shows what it means to be a parent, the responsibilities of fatherhood and everything that goes with it. It depicts modern men realistically as well. And it also tells us that arguments about potential situations can be just as difficult and strong as the real ones. With that, the movie portrayed an extremely realistic behavior and fights in a relationship.
It is very well directed, really well made. It also has terrific cinematography, but the score is amazing as well, using classical music perfectly. There is great mountain imagery as well and the setting overall and the location of this movie is very unique as movies rarely happen on mountains. The tone is perfect, very dramatic, sometimes even unpleasant, but with a bit of comedy from time to time too. And the originality aspect is evident not only in concept, but in execution as well. Also, the acting is superb across the board with Johannes Bah Kuhnke of course being the standout as the troubled protagonist, playing the part wonderfully.
Smart, difficult to watch, but comedic at times, unique in concept and execution, very well acted and above all being incredibly realistic and important, Force Majeure is one of the finest foreign movies of the year for sure. It has some editing problems, some stupid scenes as well as a slow first act, but it is mostly an outstanding film which benefits from a very smart and unique idea executed perfectly with a lot of thought-provoking discussions, great themes of parenthood and its responsibilities, excellent cinematography and score and above all a smart and very grounded approach.