Force Majeure

Danielle Agostini, Contributing Writer

The French term “force majeure” means “chance occurrence” or “unavoidable accident.” It’s clear why this is the title for a film about a family vacation disaster! “Force Majeure,” directed by Ruben Ostlund, portrays a Swedish family as their ski getaway to the French Alps, along with their family dynamic, quickly spirals out of control.

The plot starts with a Swedish family that goes to the Alps for what they planned to be a few days of peace, tranquility, and skiing. Everything seems perfect, but disaster soon strikes during their lunch outside at a mountainside restaurant. An avalanche comes down the mountain in the diners’ direction and people flee. Ebba, the mother of the family, calls to her husband, Tomas, while she protects the children, but Tomas takes off, protecting himself instead. Although the incident falls short of a tragedy, the family is turned upside-down, and Tomas’ role as a father and husband becomes questionable.

The film then focuses on Ebba and Tomas constantly arguing, creating an even larger divide in the family. Tempers rise as the couple spends more time together and explode in front of others. “We’re on a holiday, we shouldn’t be acting like this!” Ebba strains to Tomas at one point. What’s worse than having other people hear them arguing is having the children catch wind of it. Even when Ebba and Tomas go out into the hallway, their kids, Harry and Vera, still hear them. Instead of handling the situation maturely, Ebba and Tomas avoid being direct with the children, with Tomas constantly ushering Harry onto the ski lift as if nothing is wrong.

“Force Majeure” portrays a grown man’s midlife crisis and centers on his wife and kids while they react to it. The onset of the film shows what seems to be a happy family, but it quickly becomes clear that Tomas and Ebba have encountered problems before their trip to France. Ebba tries to understand why Tomas didn’t stay behind to protect his wife and children, and he simply says, “When you’re afraid you’re going to die, you don’t necessarily react like a hero.” The family ultimately self-destructs after an unexpected event occurs at what was supposed to be a relaxing vacation.

“Force Majeure” was difficult to watch, yet impossible to turn away from. It was sad to see a man break down in front of his family, but the movie emulates what many directors tend to avoid portraying: reality. How do humans react in unexpected situations? When faced with a “force majeure,” my guess would be to face the storm and just forge ahead.

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