Downhill – Film Review

Downhill is a remake of the film Force Majeur. Still in mourning eight months after the death of his father Peter Staunton (Will Ferrell) and his wife Billie Staunton (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) decide to take their two sons on a ski holiday in The Alps.

Everything is going well until a near death experience where the family believes that they are about to be killed by an avalanche. During the incident Peter runs away for his own safety leaving his wife and his two sons to be potentially buried in snow. The family survives the avalanche but in the aftermath of this traumatic event Billie and the kids are unable to look at Pete the same way which causes the married couple to drift apart and re-evaluate their lives together.

Attempting to resume the holiday, Billie is upset over Peter‘s behaviour, while Peter tries to sweep the whole incident under the rug. Billie wants Peter to admit that he left his family for dead, but Peter is in denial over the whole incident because he doesn’t want to believe that he would save himself in his family’s moment of need.

The film does contain some excellent acting performances from Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell. For two actors that are predominately known for their comedic roles, they both prove that they can also act in dramatic roles as well.

One scene that stood out in the film is when Peter‘s workmate and girlfriend visit Pete and Billie in their hotel room, but during the visit Peter and Billie get into a very heated argument over the avalanche. The two disagree over what happened which then causes an emotional Billie to reluctantly have her two sons tell Peter and their guests what their father did. Peter is upset and disappointed over what has happened and verbally takes it out on Billie. It is one of the most uncomfortable and tense moments in the whole film, which is remarkable considering that the two actors that aren’t in their comfort zone.

For a film that stars two comedic actors it is actually very serious and has very little comic relief. In fact, the majority of the humour doesn’t come from its two stars, but from Miranda Otto who plays Charlotte, who runs the hotel that Peter and Billie are staying at. While comic relief is certainly welcome in a dramatic film like this, it almost made the film seem unfocused, as if it wasn’t sure if it wanted to be; whether it be a serious drama or a silly comedy.

Downhill had its world premiere at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival and will open in Australian cinemas on March 5.

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