A perfect Swedish family’s skiing trip in the French Alps seems to be going just fine in Ruben Ostlund’s remarkably confident and subtle comedy, a film in which domesticity unravels deliciously. Apart from a little whingeing from the kids, everyone is enjoying themselves. But on day two, disaster strikes.
The brunchers on the resort’s terrace think they’re witnessing a ‘controlled avalanche’, but when the snow sliding towards them gets too close for comfort, the crowd panics. When the white cloud lifts, we discover that dad Tomas (Johannes Kuhnke) has left his eggs benedict. Scarpering to save his own skin, he’s left his family behind.
‘Force Majeure’ then becomes a wholly different movie: a study in deflated masculinity. The avalanche is a false alarm. But even as Tomas tries to save face – and his buddy (Kristofer Hivju) comes weakly to his defence – something profound has shifted. His wife Ebba (Lisa Loven Kongsli) can barely look at him; his children feel abandoned. The film builds riotously via a series of verbal takedowns as his male authority goes limp. This is slender material to build a whole film around, but if you’ve got the patience to keep watching, Ostlund turns it into something deep.