- Running time:
- 88 minutes
- Agnes Kittelsen -
- Joachim Rafaelsen -
- Maibritt Saerens -
- Henrik Rafaelsen -
- Oskar Hernaes Brandso -
Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) doesn’t let life get her down—even though her husband Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) all but ignores her when he isn’t spewing insults and their son Theodor (Oskar Hernaes Brandso) is taking after his dad. At least they’ve got new neighbors arriving in their isolated area of Norway: Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) are looking to repair their own fractured marriage. With no one else around for miles, these two couples are about to collide in unexpected, life-altering ways.
The buzz: Winner of the World Cinema Jury Prize at this year’s Sundance Film Festival and Norway’s official selection for the upcoming Best Foreign Film Oscar race, “Happy, Happy” is the feature debut of Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky.
The verdict: The basic structure of two couples making profound differences in each others’ lives is nothing new, but what “Happy, Happy” lacks in inspiration it makes up in specificity. Sewitsky delivers a sweetly sincere and richly humorous exploration of the flawed characters in Ragnhild Tronvoll’s script—slowly but surely revealing their secrets and allowing each of the four key adults to flesh out multiple layers of love and loneliness. Kaja’s irrepressible positivity has echoes of Sally Hawkins’ breakthrough role in “Happy-Go-Lucky,” but Kittelsen puts her own uniquely beguiling spin on the eternal optimist. Even as she runs away with the movie, her three co-stars make strong impressions of their own. At times, “Happy, Happy” is a little too on the nose—Kaja’s dream of singing in a choir leads to a solo performance of (what else?) “Amazing Grace” and there’s a silly subplot involving Theodor role playing oppressive games of slavery with Elisabeth and Sigve’s adopted Ethiopian son Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy). It all builds to a conclusion that feels overly tidy, but you get the sense Kaja wouldn’t have it any other way. After you’ve spent the film’s brisk 88 minute running time with her, you’ll happily concede she deserves to get what she wants.
Did you know? The film’s Norwegian title, “Sykt Lykkelig,” more literally translates in English as “insanely happy” or “sickeningly happy,” which comes a little closer to hinting at the film’s mix of bitter and sweet humor.
Follow Metromix's Geoff Berkshire on Twitter: @geoffberkshire
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