HAPPY END – A Review by Cynthia Flores
This French film is a trip and a half. If you’re in the mood for a slightly different take on modern family issues then this ride is for you.
We first meet our lead Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin) a young soon to be teenager using her smartphone to record her life with a troubled and very sedated mother, using texts over the video to narrate her pain of neglect. It’s not neglect like living in the projects or not having anything to eat, it’s more the neglect of having your parents so wrapped up in their own lives that they don’t have time to really take better care of you emotionally. Still, some of the actions by young Eve are pretty brutal with serious ramifications.
The next scene in the film shows us a security camera video depicting an accident where a worker is killed at a construction site. The site is owned by The Laurent Group that is headed by Anne (Isabelle Huppert), Eve’s aunt. This is the family Eve gets to know better once her mother is hospitalized due to the overdose and poisoning from her prescription medicine. Her long absent father, Dr. Thomas Laurent (Mathieu Kassovitz), takes her in until her mother gets better. He lives in a big family mansion in Calais. It has separate quarters for the Laurent family that consists of his sister Anne, her over privileged and drunk son Pierre (Franz Rogowski) and their father Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) who suffers from dementia and the longing to end it all.
In Happy End nothing happens quickly. There are no thumping soundtracks or fast cuts of the camera. This pace adds to the tension of waiting for the other shoe to drop. However, there are times it rambles on a bit too long as we watch these bizarre sex-laced IM'ing and emails going on between Eve’s father and his new lover, a talented cellist.
His daughter, who following her mother's death, now lives full time with her father and stepmother, discovers his affair and his messages. She’s afraid that when he leaves Anais (Laura Verlinden), the woman that he left her mother for, that she’ll end up in a orphanage because Anais will not want to keep her and take care of her newborn son at the same time. She confesses this to her father when she’s in the hospital after she tries to commit suicide by taking her mother's sleeping pills. From her hospital bed she begs him to take her with him when he leaves his new wife. He’s shocked to have been found out and tells her he’s not leaving anyone and that he may be clumsy in showing it, but loves his little girl very much. That’s when she tells him that she doesn’t believe him because he loves no one but himself. Even this heart-wrenching plea from his daughter doesn’t make him change his ways.
Basically this is a story of how people just don’t change and sometimes they’re not very nice people no matter how nice they look to the world from the outside.
The ending will surprise you, I know it did me. Happy End is a good contemplative foreign film in French with English subtitles. The acting is top notch and the direction is steady. The story is really slow in giving up its surprises but it's worth the wait. I give Happy End a solid B Rating.
Directed by Michael Haneke
Written By Michael Haneke
Selig Rating B
Running Time 1hr 47min
Starring: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Toby Jones
Movie Site: sonyclassics.com/happyend
The Selig Rating Scale:
A – Excellent movie, well worth the price.
B – Good movie
C – OK movie
D – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
F – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.