Review: Happy Ending (2017)

Happy Ending (2017)

Directed by: Michael Haneke | 107 minutes | drama | Actors: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Fantine Harduin, Franz Rogowski, Laura Verlinden, Aurélia Petit, Toby Jones, Hille Perl, Hassam Ghancy, Nabiha Akkari, Joud Geistlich

‘Happy End’ is again a cynical Haneke, full of interpersonal distance, cameras in the back and a claustrophobic setting. The oppression seems less pressing than in ‘Funny Games’, unlike in ‘Caché’; the atmosphere in the wealthy Laurent family is almost static, despite the saddening entanglements. Mater familias Anne (a capable Huppert as always) sees her family falling apart in lethargy and powerlessness. Her live-in father Georges (Trintignant) is demented and wants to end his life, son Pierre (Rogowski) is alcoholic and ambitious, and brother Thomas (Kassovitz) has to deal with a seriously ill ex-wife, leaving his twelve-year-old daughter. Eve (Harduin) has to stay with Anne.

Meanwhile, Anne, director of an offshore company, has her business worries and she has to keep up appearances. At those times, during dinners and parties, the atmosphere is most striking, almost reminiscent of ‘Party’. But ‘Happy End’ also lacks a certain focus due to the multitude of characters and subplots, although towards the end the emotional state of Georges and Eve is brought together in a morbid way. Haneke occasionally seems to make fun of his own image of man (inability to get through to each other), but never makes a choice between tragicomedy and drama.

The ending seems to be a sarcastic reference to the title of the film. Trintignant and Harduin deserve the said focus a movie long, also considering the acting performances. The choice for an open ending does the film no good. In between acts it is often boring and the characters don’t really want to stick. What argues for Haneke is that he manages to capture the chaos of the daily lives of these unhappy people well. Eve checking her father’s emails to gain access to his emotional life, the wealthy, senile Georges who wanders in his wheelchair to address refugees in his hometown of Calais. Perhaps ‘Happy End’ deserves a second viewing

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