In “Force Majeure,” Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) and Ebba’s (Lisa Loven Kongsli) family skiing vacation takes an unexpected turn when a controlled avalanche creates a panic. During the chaos, Tomas runs away, briefly leaving Ebba and their two children alone in the snow mist. Although the avalanche was controlled, the incident incites conflict between the two. Ebba can’t believe Tomas ran; Tomas refuses to admit he did anything of the sort.
“Force Majeure” is all about Tomas and Ebba’s relationship in the four days following the avalanche, a portrait of their argument. It’s a damn good one. Ultimately, Tomas and Ebba are motivated more by confusion and hurt feelings than they are a real, tactile argument. Their comfortable lives were shaken by a sudden trauma. They lash out at each other. They reconcile. It’s intimate, painful.
Kuhnke and Kongsli embody their characters with a real vulnerability; the story is the healing of their hearts, and they sell every minute of it. I found it refreshing to watch a movie where a couple re-evaluate itself without reducing the conflict into “will they or won’t they stay together” simplicity. While Tomas and Ebba both have friends around to offer them advice, neither really doubts their commitment to the other person. Rather, they spend their energy wondering just who the other person is.
Writer-director Ruben Ostlund does a remarkable job at keeping the movie visual despite the quiet nature of Tomas and Ebba’s strife. He takes advantage of the scenery of the French Alps. It’s a beautiful movie to watch; a pleasant experience.
“Force Majeure” has received a lot of attention this awards season, with good reason. It’s a film of seemingly effortless emotional reality.