Will Ferrell and Julia Louis-Dreyfus co-star in this dark comedy, inspired by Fuben Östlund’s 2014 Swedish film Force Majeure.
Pitched as a ‘different kind’ of disaster movie, this painfully truthful film sees Pete Stranton (Will Ferrell), his wife Billie (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and their two sons spend their holidays in a luxury ski resort in the Austrian Alps.
In a way, this holiday is Pete’s form of paying for their family to be happy again, but instead, it makes things worse when they experience a small avalanche while at the resort’s outdoor restaurant. In a moment of fear, Pete grabs his phone and runs for cover, leaving his wife and two sons to survive the avalanche on their own. Everyone is ok, but their family relationship is not.
The event brings out the family’s underlying issues, with Billie feeling hurt and betrayed by Pete, their two sons feeling abandoned and afraid, and Pete feeling guilty and wondering if his family will ever to able to forgive and love him again.
Downhill discusses the topic of flight versus fight, and makes us, as the viewers, think about how we would react in the same situation. Being a dark comedy, it is different to Will Ferrell’s usual movies, but there are still moments of light-hearted comedic relief throughout.
There are also many cringe-worthy scenes in the movie, reflecting moments in real life, which we usually avoid talking about. In the spirit of harsh realities, Downhill doesn’t sugarcoat anything, and actually makes fun of Pete’s character, who is always trying to make light of events that happen throughout the film. This is one of the reasons why he clashes with his wife, who, as a realist, is not afraid to face hard truths.
As a bonus, the film features the hilarious Brisbane-born actress, Miranda Otto (most recently in Chilling
Adventures of Sabrina). She plays a local hotel concierge who opens the couple’s minds about human bodies and their interactions. She eventually inspires Billie to put herself first and make her husband, Pete, realise that he needs to try harder and be willing to survive life with his family.
As an idealistic person, I tend to romanticise life, so this movie pushes people like me out of our comfort zones. However, I was pleasantly surprised with how much I enjoyed the film. As uncomfortable as it makes us feel, the movie discusses important topics like the difficulties of marriage, and the value of a simple apology and acknowledgment of events. The film manages to execute these topics in a funny, clever way that is realistic without being a downer.