out of Five
Running time: 85
Enjoyable, warm-hearted and refreshingly unpredictable Norwegian sex comedy that succeeds thanks to winning performances, assured direction and a sharply observed script, though it's slightly let down by a dodgy sub-plot.
What's it all about?
Written and directed by Anne Sewitsky, Happy Happy stars Agnes Kittelsen as naïve schoolteacher Kaja, who lives in the Norwegian countryside with her husband Erik (Joachim Rafaelsen) and their young son Theodor (Oskar Hernaes Brandso). When new neighbour Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), his beautiful lawyer wife Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and their black adopted son Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy) move into the house across the street, Kaja is thrilled, but their welcome dinner doesn't go as planned and a subsequent evening of parlour games upsets her by revealing the cracks in her relationship with Erik.
However, when Sigve reveals to Kaja that he and Elisabeth moved to the country because Elisabeth had an affair, the pair have a spontaneous encounter that leads to a passionate affair. Meanwhile, Erik's attempts to bond with Sigve take an unexpected turn, while, left to their own devices, Theodor and Noa start playing 'Master and Slave' games that take an uncomfortable turn.
Agnes Kittelsen is superb as Kaja, delivering a warm, completely open performance where her every emotion is plainly visible on her face and her infectious smile is utterly charming; consequently, when she's sad, she's heartbreaking to watch, so we really root for her to find happiness, even though we sense that the affair is likely to end badly. Henrik Rafaelsen is equally good as Sigve and his reasons for embarking on the affair are both well written and convincing; he also has genuine chemistry with Kittelsen.
Similarly, Joachim Rafaelsen and Maibritt Saerens are both excellent in the less sympathetic roles, with Rafaelsen in particular generating a complex mix of emotions for his character; his apparent neglect of Kaja clearly casts him as the villain on the surface, but the underlying reality is much more complicated.
The sharply observed, frequently amusing script is refreshingly unpredictable and Sewitsky's assured direction maintains a consistent and effective balance of tone, with the result that scenes are often simultaneously laugh-out-loud funny and powerfully emotional. Indeed, the only real problem with the film is the poorly conceived Master/Slave game subplot, which admittedly serves the purpose of illustrating how the adults' self-obsessed behaviour is harming their children, but fails to adequately address the dodginess of the whole issue (the same overall effect could have been achieved by a game of 'Dare', for example).
Happy Happy is an enjoyable, emotionally engaging and refreshingly unpredictable Norwegian sex comedy with a superb script and a terrific central performance from Agnes Kittelsen. Worth seeking out.