Michael Haneke’s follow-up to his Academy Award winning Amour is a sharp dark comedy that takes stinging jabs at family, societal appearances and our unhealthy obsession with social media. Happy End focuses on the Laurent clan as they deal with unexpected professional and personal issues, while simultaneously attempting to maintain the appearance of an affluent family.
After an accident occurs at a construction site her family business is overseeing, Anne (Isabelle Huppert) must do damage control to ensure that she and her problematic son Pierre (Franz Rogowski), who manages the day-to-day operations at the site, avoid litigation. On top of that, Anne gets word that the ex-wife of her brother, Thomas (Matthieu Kassovitz), has overdosed leading Thomas to bring his estranged daughter Eve (Fantine Harduin) to live on the family estate. Observing all of this is widowed octogenarian Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the patriarch of the clan who is more interested in ending his life than get into the affairs of his children and grandchildren.
While Haneke’s previous film was a touching look at the lengths people are willing to go to out of love, Happy End is bathed in the shallow waters of selfishness. While Anne and Thomas attempt to put band-aids on their problems, often by throwing money at a situation rather than addressing the root cause, it is Eve and Georges who frequently see through the family’s facade. Through these characters, especially Eve who records everything from her mother’s bedtime routine to her own poisoning of a hamster on a Snapchat-style app, Haneke captures the callous way the family treats each other and those they interact with. As engaging as Happy End is, Haneke’s cold and biting social commentary, and his challenging dark humour, will surely divide audiences.
This review was originally published as part of our 2017 TIFF coverage. The film opens today at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.