Georges and Anne are an octogenarian couple. They are cultivated, retired music teachers. Their daughter, also a musician, lives in Britain with her family. One day, Anne has a stroke, and the couple's bond of love is severely tested.
A 14-year-old video enthusiast is so caught up in film fantasy that he can no longer relate to the real world, to such an extent that he commits murder and records an on-camera confession for his parents.
A European family who plan on escaping to Australia, seem caught up in their daily routine, only troubled by minor incidents. However, behind their apparent calm and repetitive existence, they are actually planning something sinister.
Gradually succumbing to dementia, George Laurent, the octogenarian patriarch of the Laurents, an affluent upper-bourgeois family, is uncomfortably sharing his palatial manor in Calais, the heart of the infamous migrant jungle, with his twice-married son, Thomas, and Anne, his workaholic daughter who has taken over the family construction business. Divorced and frigid, Anne has to handle the impact of a disastrous workplace accident caused by her disappointing son Pierre's negligence, while at the same time, the urgent hospitalisation of Thomas' ex-wife from a mysterious poisoning, leads his sulky 13-year-old daughter, Ève, to live with her father and his new wife, Anais. Undoubtedly, in this family, everyone has a skeleton in the closet, and as the fates of the Laurents enmesh with insistent and ignoble desires, a peculiar and disturbing alliance will form. But in the end, some secrets are bigger than others.Written by
Although Jean-Louis Trintignant has been retired since 2003, he only comes back to working on films if Michael Haneke is directing. He considers Haneke the greatest director alive and would act for him in any film (in both big and smalls roles). Michael Haneke also considers Trintignant one of his all time favorite actors (along side with Marlon Brando). See more »
During the beach scene with Thomas and Eve, several passersby in the background are looking at the camera. See more »
Beautiful, funny, and sharp about family and refugees.
"All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way." Tolstoy, Anna Karenina
If you'd like to feel good about your family, then see Happy End, written and directed by an Austrian, Michael Haneke, with a dollop of Euro horror that seems to combine elements of Roman Polanski and Mike Nichols. This family flirts with self-destruction across the generations.
Patriarch Georges Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is celebrating his 85th birthday with enough of his wit left to remember he dispatched his ailing wife to the next life out of concern for her pain. Similarly his granddaughter, 13 year old Eve (Fantine Harduin), attempted to poison a classmate and recently to commit suicide. Across the generations, this is not a happy family. However, a happy end they may have if even-keeled, task-oriented Georges' daughter, Anne (Isabelle Huppert), prevails. Not likely.
For all their wealth, each member, even comely and charming daughter Anne, is unhappy, she with a grown son, Pierre (Franz Rogowski), who is not socially or mentally well balanced. He can't even sing Karaoke without endangering his life. That Karaoke scene is a keeper in modern cinema.
Yet the family does ritual dining and socializing, right down to inviting friends and relatives to an intimate concert that is not euphonious to say the least. Just another off-balance moment. All the pretty dining and servants can't mask the undercurrent of familial larceny.
Haneke's use of modern technology from the live-streaming video during the opening bathroom scene to the exposure of a love affair through instant messaging casts an unflattering, harsh light on whatever the family may want to hide but can't. Even a work accident is seen through a security camera. As in Haneke's Cache, surveillance is revealing but never a solution.
Anne's engagement party could have been the democratizing of this family, but rather becomes a debacle when Pierre brings unannounced African immigrants with the beginnings of a diatribe against immigration policies. The result is mutilation, not reconciliation.
Happy End will not have a happy end for audiences unwilling to do some heavy thinking about the various puzzle pieces from each episode that eventually create a mosaic of modern bourgeois dysfunction. As such, the film may be difficult and tedious for general audiences.
Privilege has inured the principals to the plight of the servants in their household (the dog-bite sequence is particularly unnerving) and the unwanted immigrants at their wedding. This scurrilous neglect, passed down to generations, reflects not just a French problem (they are in Calais, after all, the port for refugee chaos) when the audience may consider the growing class disparities around the world and callous care about the poor and homeless.
Happy End, in the end, is about cankerous abandon in privilege, whose end may be no less than murder and suicide. Whatever, it's not pretty but a rewarding artistic experience.
21 of 25 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?
| Report this