The French Alps is the holiday destination of a close knit happy Swedish family. Oblivious of the events about to unfold, Tomas and Ebba and their two children are having lunch while admiring the spectacular snow slopes at a mountainside restaurant. Watching what looks like an upcoming avalanche they are concerned but are assured that there is nothing to fear till they find it's actually heading their way. Everyone flees from the verandah, including Tomas. Running for his life he forgets about his wife and children who are huddled together and left behind.
It turns out that there really was nothing to fear and what they thought was an avalanche was really snow dust from an anticipated disaster that had failed to occur. Yet this family's world will never be the same again. Ebba is profoundly effected by her husband's desertion of her and the children and with each passing day she only gets angrier. Will the marriage survive this catastrophe especially when Tomas does not see the events that unfolded the same way as Ebba?
This movie is about a family re-evaluating their roles and assumptions and how Ebba has to come to terms with the role of a male in a modern family. Tomas himself needs to face up to some truths about his own character while the children huddle yet again in fear of a fall-out of their world that consists of two loving parents.
There are scenes of Ebba talking to another woman who thinks about relationships in a totally different way and are at odds to her beliefs. I believe some scenes were thrown in so the film does not appear so insular. This was far from necessary as the actors were more than adept at sweeping us along with their emotions and holding us tight. There are also discussions at a dinner with another couple, friends of theirs, with whom Ebba discusses the scenario at great length to get a better understanding of what happened and to resolve how she feels.
Director and scriptwriter Ruben Ístlund has long been fascinated by the reactions of humans in sudden and unexpected situations such as a catastrophe. This particular story was from an anecdote he found impossible to forget. Many years ago, friends of his (a Swedish couple) were having a holiday in Latin America when suddenly gunmen appeared and started shooting. The husband ran for cover and left his wife unprotected. When they got home, after a glass of wine or two, the wife could not stop telling the story over and over again. This fired Ruben's imagination and he started researching other true stories of behaviour under fire shall we say. He found that there is no norm to the way people react in extreme situations and that the aftermath usually ended in a large number of survivors divorcing. It also appears men do not always act to the expected codes of chivalry especially if their own survival is at stake.
This film is a vehicle for Ruben to start discussions about the perceived notion that a man is supposed to be the protector of his wife and family and the societal code that says he must not step back in the face of danger. It also shows though seldom voiced these assumptions and expectations exist within a family. The mother takes care of the children and the father is the protector. This is at odds with the reality of the modern world where there is little opportunity for the man to express heroic actions that he also expects of himself. Yet this expectation exists. What are your views ? See how you feel after viewing the film.
This Swedish movie with English subtitles opens on the 16th of October 2014 and it is 118 mins long. I give it a 6.5 out of 10.