Imagine this: you’re on vacation at a ski resort with your significant other. You’re enjoying a lunch on a mountain-side patio. Suddenly, an avalanche is rushing towards you. Right before it looks like it will hit you, your partner bolts. The one person who is supposed to be by your side – come what may – abandons you to survive.
Now imagine that avalanche was a false alarm. It stops just short of hurting anyone. Your partner returns and acts as if he or she did nothing wrong. As if nothing happened. As if they didn’t just abandon you to save themselves. How would you feel? What would you do? How do you confront your loved one about what they did? How would your view of them change – as a person and a life partner?
That’s the premise of Force Majeure, one of the best-reviewed movies of 2014 (now on DVD, Blu-Ray and VOD). The Swedish film sees married couple Tomas and Ebba on vacation in the French Alps with their kids, and the husband abandons his family to save himself when an avalanche looks like it’s about to kill everyone.
There are a lot of reasons to watch Force Majeure. It’s brilliantly acted, directed, and written. It’s heart wrenching and darkly comedic (often in the same scene). But what makes it a must-watch is how thought provoking it is. Because from the moment the avalanche ends (eleven minutes in), Force Majeure is an intriguing look at what happens after Tomas’ split-second decision. It’s a thoughtful, often squirm-inducing, look at the fallout of Tomas’ abandonment of his family. That action is like a snowflake that begins to snowball into an avalanche of its own – albeit an emotional one full of passive aggressiveness, fighting, and crying.
As a result, Force Majeure becomes a must-see for everyone, and especially for those of you in a relationship who watch films as a couple (it may not be an accident it’s being released so close to Valentine’s Day).
Why? You can’t help but watch the film and ask yourselves (and your partner) the very questions its characters are wrestling with: What would I do if my partner bolted? What would I do if I bolted? It’s basically looking to stir a little trouble in your relationship by chucking a hypothetical grenade – loaded with explosive questions – at the comforting assumptions you have about yourself and your partner.
We all imagine we’d take a bullet – or avalanche, as it were – for our loved ones. Or that they would do the same for us. But Force Majeure forces you wonder if it would really happen that way when chips are down. And if it doesn’t, how do you deal with that realization? Those questions make it impossible not to pause the movie sometimes and discuss it with your partner on the couch. And you may not like the answers that discussion yields.
In that sense, what’s so great about this movie is that it isn’t just a story about one couple. Watching it, it very quickly becomes a movie about you. It makes you consider the kind of “What ifs” we don’t think about too deeply – or want to. That might sound like work, or a dangerous proposition to tackle (it’s no accident another pair in the film start to wonder what they would do, and end up fighting). But it’s anything but. After all, the best kind of movies are the ones that spark a good conversation, and, hey, it’s always good for couples to talk about these kinds of things. That alone makes Force Majeure worth seeing. Though you may want to have a couples therapist on speed dial. Just in case.