Downhill Review

Just as the trailer states, Downhill is a different kind of disaster movie. But will getting positive reviews be an uphill battle?

Downhill stars Will Ferrel and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who play Pete and Billie, as they navigate the emotional aftermath of an avalanche.

Straight off the bat, you need to understand that this isn’t the typical comedy we see from Will Ferrel where he’s dressed as a giant elf or dealing with a stepbrother. And this is where the movie will fail for some people due to the expectations associated with his acting career.

However, if you push that aside you’ll find very emotional and funny performances from both Ferrel and Louis-Dreyfus. The humour just comes from the awkward reflection of human experiences.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Will Ferrell in the film DOWNHILL. Photo by Jaap Buitendijk. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

For example, the whole trip has Pete and Billie discussing eating plans so they can be hungry for dinner, which leads to a very intoxicated Pete. Moments like these cause the audience to reflect on their own strange, family holiday quirks in comparison to the incredible onscreen family dynamics.

The emotional build up to the point of Pete’s intoxication is an incredible investigation of the fatherly expectations in a crisis. Pete has put on himself grand expectations to be the hero for his boys, a status I’m sure all fathers experience. But this unfortunate fallout leads to the isolation and patronisation of his wife Billie while Pete refuses to acknowledge his unpredictable (yet very human) response.

Because no one knows how they will react in a situation like this. Drawing from the Fight or Flight responses (which researches have expanded to 6 responses), the parents are seen to have very different reactions to danger. While Billie somewhat freezes while bunkering down with her boys, Pete flees with the instinct to grab his phone. It’s a strange response, one that he fears would make him less of a fatherly protector if he admits it.

Zach Woods and Will Ferrell in the film DOWNHILL. Photo by Jaap Buitendijk. © 2020 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation All Rights Reserved

Again, it’s not a typical comedy or romance movie. It can touch on these genres, but you’re not going to get The Proposal or Meet the Parents. This might be because it’s an adaptation of a Swedish film ‘Force Majeure’, or maybe even because of the emotional journey of the parents.

Beyond the fascinating emotional journey of Downhill’s leads, the audience will also find precision and care taken in the cinematography. The cinematography and blocking of Pete and Billie within various scenes after the controlled avalanche support the emotion turmoil brewing in their relationship. The couple are shown falling out of sync, or even sitting apart in contrast to other couples in the room.

Although the movie at times did lose momentum, the leads carried the story with phenomenal acting. We do get some typical rom-com characters through Miranda Otto and a little secluded lodge on the mountain side, but the film is heavily focused on how the characters react and the further fallout from each other’s defensive nature.

So, expect something more on the side of an arts film aided by some well thought out cinematography and terrific acting. And if you holiday with your family, you’ll probably get a kick out of the reflection on the absurd things we do.

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