Force Majeure is a Swedish family drama, written and directed by Ruben Östlund. It tells the story of two young parents, who go on a French Alpine skiing vacation with their two elementary school age kids. All is set for a fun vacation by a loving 'model family', until an external event sets in motion an avalanche, the effects of which shake the foundations of what, just moments earlier, seemed like the perfect relationship.
Filmmaker Östlund was inspired to write the story based on a real-life incident of friends of his, though under completely different circumstances. He smartly focuses our attention not on the narrative per se, but rather on the rippling effects of a single misguided, yet telling act of the husband. There are other multiple topics that surround the central focal point e.g. a brief discussion of traditional versus open relationship, parental approach for dealing with kids’ disobedience, etc. but rather than distractions, Östlund uses these to further enrich his story, giving it realistic depth.
This sort of filmmaking is unfortunately no longer common; a psychological dissection of characters who hold up their masks, and then crumble apart right in front of our eyes, only to be put together again anew.
Östlund deserves further kudus for the manner in which he adds humor at the bleakest moments of the story. He creates situations that are both intensely familiar yet absurd, thus evoking the audience to laugh; laughter that is, ultimately, aimed at what we can only recognize as our own folly, presented in the characters. The director also makes very good use of the Alpine backdrop, the mountain peaks immensity, and the resort's own routine – from the explosions used for creating controlled avalanches, to the nightly dance of the snowmobiles; all taking part as passive characters in the plot. And last but not least, the acting by the cast is quite marvelous.
Östlund’s Force Majeure does not dictate views nor does it try to force opinions. The filmmaker simply holds a mirror in which reflect certain aspects of our human nature. The movie may not be for everyone’s taste, with its slower pace and foreign language. Yet, for those who appreciate quality cinema, this film is definitely worth checking out.