FORCE MAJEURE

— by Jeff Schultz

This dark comedy of manners from Sweden (partially in English) played at festivals in America with limited release last year to positive reviews. I rented it on iTunes for the ridiculously low price of 99 cents, and it was worth every penny. Here’s the premise: a model family — Dad, Mom and their two kids — goes on a skiing vacation. While having lunch on the deck of their hotel, they watch what Dad assures them is a controlled explosion on the slopes. But as the snow tumbles toward them, it appears quite likely they are about to be engulfed by an avalanche. In the ensuing chaos, Dad runs for his life — away from his family, leaving Mom and the kids behind. The snow stops just short of the hotel, and no damage is done. But the father’s panic so rattles and disillusions the mother, it threatens the marriage. It’s not exactly played for laughs, but the uncomfortableness of the situation plays out so awkwardly, it brings nervous laughter — especially during two bang-up monologues, in which the mother relates the incident to friends, right in front of her husband, who at first tries to defend himself, but ends up a pathetic and ridiculous fool. Only a subsequent act of possible bravery on Dad’s part — possibly engineered by Mom — saves the day. There is also a coda involving their bus trip home which I have to admit left me puzzled. But the acting is flawless, most notably Lisa Loven Kongsli as the wife and the naturalistic performances by the two children.

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