By Adriana Maria Cueva, October 3 2017 —
Director Michael Haneke delivers a healthy dose of life’s worst struggles with a detached and almost humorous simplicity in his latest drama. Happy End feels like the tired ghost of his previous film, Amour, wandering long enough to find satire in its own sadness. Haneke embraces taboo and awkward subjects and serves them to the viewer under crude light.
Haneke delivers the twists and turns of family drama with little build-up. Each tragedy arises suddenly and with quiet shock. There is little emotion accompanying each unfortunate event. The characters dwell in this environment, accepting their own misfortunes in desperate stride.
Isabelle Huppert stars as Anne Laurent, a level-headed business woman worried about her young adult son and her ailing father, played by Jean Louis Trintignant. His performance as Georges Laurent is equally sad and playful, particularly towards his granddaughter Eve, who mirrors much of his darkness. Eve Laurent, played by the young Fantine Harduin, is a stellar presentation of how troubled, complex and painful childhood can be. Her onscreen maturity leaves no doubt in her acting skills.
The film combines various styles to air a family’s dirty laundry in broad daylight. Pieces of narrative enter the film in a seemingly random fashion that add depth to the viewer’s understanding of each character. The result is a family that is intensely dysfunctional yet somehow normal.
While finding humour in the film’s storyline seems almost ludicrous, stifled laughter broke out in the theatre at both the worst and best moments of the film. Stark, muddled and confusing, Happy End is an honest representation of the enervating stresses people try to keep hidden.