By Darin Skaggs
Okay, imagine you are on a vacation with your family. You spouse is taking pictures with their phone. You have two kids and they are finishing their meal and you are about to go out for a nice afternoon of skiing. All of a sudden an avalanche is coming for right where you are sitting on the outside patio. You are near a door so you grab your child and run for safety. Your spouse grabs your other child and is right behind you. You make it through the door and are completely safe from the dangers outside. All that does not happen in Ruben Ostlund’s funny, cynical family drama Force Majeure.
In the actual tale the story is about the same up until the avalanche in where Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke), the father of his two children and husband to Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) does not grab a kid, he does not help his wife. He is seen almost pushing a stranger over and following the every man for himself guideline leaving his three loved ones to fend for themselves. Luckily the avalanche comes up short and the three are only covered with a mist of snow. This starts out pretty innocent, comes up later during a double date as a joke as something Ebba finds funny. Tomas is a bit insulted and denies running away. It slowly becomes a fight and while on a different double date with Mats and Fanni it comes up as a moral problem which slowly turns into a deconstruction of their marriage and the roles of family in general.
The film takes a long, awkward almost sad look at the roles of family and mostly the roles the male has in society. It starts out innocent but Tomas gets blamed more and more for not helping his wife and most importantly his children. When the people eating out side realize they may be in danger from the wall of snow they all start to panic. For any one you ask they would mostly likely say that they would protect their kids. Any one you ask, even Tomas, would want their children to be safer than they are. The film debates for its entirety whether what Tomas did was selfish or just his human nature taking over for the small time he had to decide. You never really know if Tomas is denying that he ran away from his family because he is just misremembering due to the trauma or that he doesn’t want anyone to know his selfish mistake. Then the ending comes which turns the whole situation on its head and seems cynical for what motherly love means to the family system.
The cynical look at the family system is pretty dark. Mats and Fanni get into a fight due to a discussion about Tomas and Ebba’s situation. The kids break your heart at times, they are barely shown but when they are they are not happy, they are genuinely worried about their parent’s future relationship. This is not a lag to watch though, it has several moments of comedy strategically placed throughout the film. There are times that are so awkward and maybe even sad that a humorous moment is placed just to break the tension. It is all also very real to life, the comedy and moral discussions feel so natural that they make an uncomfortable amount of relatable moments. It is so wonderfully awkward, it is one of the most well made films of the year. It looks real nice all around, there are beautiful looks at the snowy mountain in the background, the look of the hotel, the clothes they wear, the performances by the actors all comes together to make a fantastic film.