There has been a bit of grumbling lately among Gabriel Byrne Fans. Oh, we are all happy that he is making so many films and television series, and we are so excited about his stint on Broadway this summer, and we love seeing pics of him with fans (even if we cry a bit because the fan is not us!). So, what’s to grumble about?
Gabriel has a new movie coming out and he is playing another DAD?!
Yes, fellow Byrneholics, our Professor Bhaer/d’Artagnan/Andrew Kiernan/Satan is playing yet another “dad” in Louder Than Bombs. And in the upcoming Carrie Pilby. Just as he did in Quirke and Vampire Academy and Jindabyne and Wah-Wah and Spider and many other films and television shows over the years. His past fathers have been good, evil, troubled, brilliant, confused, alcoholic, funny, and even blood-thirsty. Mr. Byrne has given us many differently-shaded and complex dads in the past. But never a paterfamilias like this one.
Gene, Gabriel’s character in Louder Than Bombs, is new.
And what is so new about Gene? He is there. Always. As his youngest son, Conrad, notes with dismay: “He’s everywhere!” Unlike the stereotypical “absent” father, Gene works where his youngest attends school. And he follows Conrad around a lot. Why? Because he is a concerned parent worried about his son. More overly-protective than your average dad. And for good reason. Gene is a widower. Losing his wife and the mother of his children to what everyone thinks was a tragic accident has redefined him. Again. He gave up acting to become a teacher in order to stay at home while his wife traveled the world for her work. Now he tackles the responsibility of being both Mom and Dad to his two sons (Conrad and his older brother, Jonah) with a kind of steady courage. He is capable of true empathy and he does not hide or ignore it. He tries to keep the channels of communication open. He organizes. He cooks tacos for dinner. He attempts to create balance and stability. He drives everyone crazy. And that’s a good thing.
Because Gene cares so much, because he is so present, and because he does not give up, the family might not fall apart in the face of death.
In a recent interview, director Joachim Trier said this about the role and its actor:
One thing I loved about his character is that he is not a typical patriarchal father you see. You don’t see that in American films often.
You see, men can also be carers. It is very important and I’m glad you bring it up because for this film, I think many men would stay away from this role. I think there is a slight prejudice. Yes, we can discuss the very important issue of letting women play many different roles. In real life women play many more roles in society. I am a feminist and I believe in that absolutely. Very important. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight, at the same time, for men to be allowed to play different roles as well. We are all struggling existentially with being restricted, continually, in having to live up to expectations which don’t make us feel that we are allowing ourselves to be more than we could, you know, or be what we can be.
Gene’s story is not about patriarchy, playing the role of the authoritarian father. It’s about playing the role many mothers have played, as the carer, the one that ultimately is the pivot of the family. And he is the only one for the children to be present at the same time being pushed away, because this idealized mother is no longer around. So that’s very much Gabriel.
Mr. Byrne walks the walk. He has taken on a role that some might find difficult or demanding–or, as Trier implies, even perhaps a bit distasteful. He is not afraid to challenge us to see that men and women, while obviously different in important and lovely ways, have more in common as human beings than our cultures might allow us to express, to know, to be. He is not afraid to touch that nerve. And that’s why Gene, his father in Louder Than Bombs, is new. And compelling. And a pivotal part of a lyrical, moving, bold, and visually arresting film.
The Louder Than Bombs Mega Movie Page is bursting with goodies: videos, screencaps, promotional stills, interview and review excerpts, pics from Cannes, quotes from the film, and more. The film has a thrilling cast, a brilliantly written story, and is shot beautifully and with great originality. A simple web page could never do it justice, so you must see it on a big screen, a little screen, any screen you can find! But enjoy the Mega Movie Page anyway because, as Isabelle, his wife, says to Gene during a scene from the past:
Isabelle: You’re lucky.
Gene: Oh, yeah? Why am I lucky?
Isabelle: Because you’ve got everything you want in one place.
Yes, you do! smile