It's a cold Christmastime for unhappy hausfrau Kaya (Agnes Kittelsen), a beautiful young mother who learned from a rough youth that acting pleasant is the way to make friends. Her warmth and friendliness are so practiced they conceal most everything, desperation especially. Her husband Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) hides his homosexuality with false hunting trips but makes no effort to conceal his hostility, which he teaches their son Theodor (Oskar Hernæs Brandsø) as a form of male bonding. When erudite neighbors move in next door Kaya's so thrilled for the company the problems at home are quickly (and temporarily) overshadowed. Elisabeth and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen and Maibritt Saerens) moved to escape Elisabeth's recent affair and they bring with them an African adopted child Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy). Quickly the power dynamic emerges. Theodor plays slave driver to the younger Noa under the parents' noses and Eirik begins pitching activities with Sigve, like running, hunting or sleepovers in the teepee he built outside the house. Outdoorsmanship never looked so gay. Everyone keeps such a happy face, and this is the source of most of the underhanded comedy in Happy, Happy, making the moments of humiliation that much more painful. When Kaja's son sees her pleasantly grooming, he calls her ugly—he's been trained to keep her in line and her joy means he's not doing his job. Kaja wants her gay husband to love her but when Sigve shows her kindness and, later, desire, their relationship blossoms in a terrain where nothing else could. Her low expectations are moot against Sigve's genuine interest; the sweetness and sincerity of their bond puts their ugly marriages to shame. But the children are watching, which means adults have to keep up the mood, and while Happy, Happy could have provided more time and space for their heartbreak, it's a more poignant film for keeping its stiff upper lip. It's a bit of a shame how the film uses music but it's not a tragic misstep, just an awkwardness laid onto an otherwise strong effort. The dialogue is simple and sharp and goes nowhere the actors can't handle. Happy, Happy is the catharsis for anyone who's had a romance go south.
Cast: Agnes Kittelsen, Henrik Rafaelsen, Maibritt Saerens, Joachim Rafaelsen
Director: Anne Sewitsky
Screenwriter: Ragnhild Tronvoll
Producer: Synnøve Hørsdal
Genre: Dramedy; Norwegian-language, subtitled
Rating: R for sexual content including brief graphic nudity.
Running time: 85 min.
Release date: September 16 NY/LA