Movie Review - Force Majeure (2014)

This film puts forward a very interesting idea and then somewhat backs off from that idea. It puts forward the notion that men, or particularly a man, can be afraid or weak or not always the strong one or the big, mighty protector. It might be a social taboo that encounters resistance or ridicule, but the movie seems to get to a place where maybe this idea of a scared or weak man is okay and that men don't always have to conform to this gender stereotype.

Filmmaker Ruben Östlund presents a tricky proposition or bargaining. During a ski trip, a husband has lunch with his wife and two children at an open restaurant balcony overlooking a snowy mountain. A controlled avalanche scares the people at the restaurant and causes most of them to flee in terror, including the husband who outright abandons his wife and two children.

Johannes Kuhnke stars as Tomas, the husband in question. At a dinner that happens the next day, Tomas and his wife Ebba, played by Lisa Loven Kongsli, talk to another couple. Ebba tells the other couple about the avalanche and how Tomas abandoned her and their children. Tomas denies running away from them. A quiet debate ensues about whether Tomas did abandon them or not. It's not much of a debate since Östlund shows in a 4-minute, unedited shot that reveals conclusively that Tomas did abandon them.

The rest of the movie is Ebba being upset over this and trying to understand or reconcile Tomas' actions during the avalanche and after. The rest of the movie is also about the effect it has on the children. It also has an effect on another couple who are friends and who are unnerved once they hear the story of the avalanche.

For a while, the movie is a great dissection of the male gender and the stereotype of what men are supposed to be or how they're supposed to behave, culminating in a highly uncomfortable, emotional breakdown. There's also a great fight between Tomas and Ebba's friends, Fanny and Mats, played respectively by Fanni Metelius and Kristofer Hivju.

Östlund ruins things though with the ending, which undermines all that he built. There is a scene that has Tomas perform a rescue, almost as a way of proving that he's a man. There's also a scene where Ebba does essentially what Tomas does. She has a panic moment. She has a run-for-your-life moment, which supposedly puts her and Tomas back on equal footing. Yet, to me, it was just a cop out.

Three Stars out of Five.
Rated R for some language and brief nudity.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 58 mins.


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