The near tragedy in question is a controlled avalanche at a ski resort that scares the living crap out of the patrons who were not privy to it. The father, Tomas, sprints away from his family, but doesn’t forget his phone and gloves, leaving his family to be crushed by the apparent impending avalanche. This one moment where there were no physical consequences reaps tons of emotional ones on the family, as wife Ebba begins to reevaluate her opinion of her husband.
Spread out over the course of a few day ski trip, Force Majeure takes us through the couple’s attempt to shake the incident and how it affects their kids who feel like their parents are on the verge of divorce. The emotional swings are subtle, and often very passive, and while it is certainly an interesting angle to explore in a relationship I don’t know if it digs in far enough. In fact, I feel like it rolls over way too easily on letting Tomas off the hook.
Tomas’ old friend and his young lover bring some solid humor to the film as he tries and talks Tomas’ actions into something rationale, as well as the couple’s impending argument that develops out of their disagreement on whose side they are on. Tomas’ eventual breakdown I found funnier than it was sad, which might have been the point, but where they take Ebba from there I can’t get on board with.
Ruben Östlund’s direction is great, with some beautiful shots and vistas, I just wish his script had a little more too it. Yeah, the actors are great at conveying the emotional pain that is passing over them, but I think things get a bit too repetitive, especially with Tomas. Ebba is where the film flourishes and I really feel like the final act betrayed everything they built up for here. Lisa Loven Kongsli plays Ebba as strong as one can hope, but she is undercut by the macho submission in the end. That said, Johannes Kuhnke is delightfully pathetic as Tomas, which makes the third act flip all the more disappointing.
Force Majeure is worth a watch, but I think it doesn’t explore its ideas to the fullest extent. Östlund’s visuals are simple and stunning, as is his work by his actors, I just don’t think his script was all that fair to his characters.