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
Like others, the main reason I went to see this film was Michael Haneke. Although I always thought that he lacks humor and takes himself too seriously, he did make some outstanding and memorable films. Unfortunately, this one feels stale, redundant, and out of step with the times. The subject matter, the bourgeoisie entrapped in their self-serving bubble as a theme, has been shown so many times, and in much more poignant ways, including by Haneke himself. This film doesn't add anything new or noteworthy, neither with the story, nor with the style.
The way social media and phone messages are shown also feels embarrassingly dated, like a grandfather explaining this "new" phenomenon. "Cache" was made over a decade ago, and technology and the discourses of its impacts have moved on with furious speed; apparently, Haneke has not. Even the metaphor of using Calais and the migrant 'jungle' as point here misses its mark. It tries to be smart about it, but, once again, it just feels old in its approach.
Interestingly enough, another western European film, the Swedish "The Square," dealt with some similar themes and issues in the same year, but was more successful with its narrative framework and style. "Happy End" just felt boring, not necessarily because of the long takes alone, but because of its uninspired re-threading of familiar ground. Because of that, those long takes eventually really did become boring. Perhaps Haneke will resurface with some interesting new work, or perhaps it is really time for him to retire. In any case, I hope the comparisons to Bunuel will cease. Bunuel was a pioneer with his films; this is a film by an old man, who doesn't seem to have much new to say any more.
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