Andrea's Review of "Force Majeure"
The family in question is a Swedish one vacationing at a French ski resort, one in which the environment is carefully calibrated to enhance the pleasure of its wealthy clientele. There are even controlled avalanches on a fairly regular basis, preceded by ominous booming noises who also function as great mood enhancers.
During one of these avalanches, businessman Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and his lovely wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) are eating outside with their two adorable blonde preteen children when it starts to look like the oncoming snow may not be quite so controlled. When Ebba gets up and turns to Tomas to help get their children inside, she finds that Tomas has already fled, but nevertheless had the presence of mind to grab his phone and gloves. The ramifications of this act resonate throughout the rest of “Force Majeure,” as it wickedly and humorously demolishes everything from bourgeois values to masculinity, to gender expectations of both men and women.
It unfolds with the slow, methodical pleasure of a procedural drama, and about as coldly as their icy surroundings, which are ingeniously utilized. The little touches of everyday life, such as a boy dropping his glove, the awkward shuffling uphill on skis, one spouse always asking if the other has their card key whenever they step out of their room, makes the various punches, as well as the suprisingly numerous funny moments, pack that much more power. The actors are marvelous, both embracing the less is more philosophy, and thus conveying everything with a sidelong glance, a way of sitting, or even putting on nightly creams. It's a marvel, and eminently worthy of representing for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars.
The only downside is a natural by-product of skewering everything in such a naturalistic way: it tends to make the film slow at times, thus making the two-hour runtime feel, well, close to that. But even if you only want to see it once, it'll be among the best two hours you've ever spent.