Ciné Coverage : Sykt Lykkelig (2010)

This review is a part of Split Reel’s coverage on the Espoo Ciné International Film Festival in Espoo, Finland (19.8.-28.8.). The screening was followed by a Q&A by director Anne Sewitsky.

Sykt Lykkelig (Happy, Happy) is a refreshingly real, yet delightfully cooky black comedy set in Norway’s rural winter.

Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) and Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) move to a small town in Northen Norway after Elisabeth’s affair. Trying to keep their marriage together they pack up everything they own, take their adpotive son Noa with them and move into a house owned by Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) and Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen).

As the couples and their sons Noa and Theodor get to know eachother they talk their dreams and hopes. Kaja’s biggest dream of joining the town choir is realized when choir-enthusiast Sigve persuades her into joining. As they play a couple’s board game, Kaja breaks down into tears after tough questions about her relationship with Eirik. As Sigve follows Kaja upstairs to comfort her, they have an .. encounter.

Eirik, who according to the director is loosely based on a typical Finnish man, is a brute, often silent and a tad abusive (Go Finland, eyh?). Turns out he’s been repressing his homosexual urges for years. When he unfortunately kisses Sigve things become tense between the couples, and they stop seeing eacother for game nights.

Sigve doesn’t stay away though, but continues to sneak off and see Kaja to have sex, run around in the snow naked and talk freely. When Elisabeth eventually finds out, the complicated living situation turns even more so, as Eirik moves into the winter hut he’s built outside, Elisabeth and Noa stay in their house and Sigve spends the night in Kaja’s guest room.

Meanwhile, the neglected sons play slave and slavemaster together, as Theodor makes Noa, who was adopted from Africa, carry around a bucket of snow and even ends up abusing him physically. As Theodor’s gotten a rigid example from his father, and as both parents are so self-absorbed in their own relationship problems, they deal with the unfamiliar situation by adopting the behavioural patterns of documentary Youtube clips of slavery.

Slavery is a recurrent theme in the film. All characters seem to be enslaved in their own lives. Eirik’ sexuality, Elisabeth’s hatred of the new rural scene, Sigve’s feeling of being betrayed by Elisabeth’s affair and Kaja’s undying love for her family, or any family for that matter.

Divided into parts by clips of an accapella group singing O Brother Where Art Thou?- type tunes, the 85 minute length is perfect for the film’s story and pace.

Sykt Lykkelig is a delightful comedy, that’s (not just a little) over the top, but heartfelt and warm, despite the winter landscape. Like a warm cup of cocoa, Happy Happy is the perfect winter comedy.

8 / 10

You Will Like Sykt Lykkelig If …

– you’re looking for laugh-out-loud moments.
– you can get past some ridiculous plotlines and take it as it is.
– accapella is your thing.

Update! I realize now, after Toby’s comment that the synopsis doesn’t ring comedy at the slightest. It’s umm … well think of The Kids Are Allright! Think of … Death at a Funeral … Soul Kitchen.


14 responses to “Ciné Coverage : Sykt Lykkelig (2010)

    • Yeah when I was reading this it doesn’t seem like a comedy ! : – D The dialogue is really funny, the comedy comes from really ridiculous every-day situations. Like when Kaja burst into tears by the game table and admits they her and Eirik never have sex, Eirik says it’s because of Kaja’s yiest infection. Check out the trailer, you can see the feel of the film, even though it doesn’t have subs!

  1. I quite liked Happy Happy (2010), maybe not as much as you did. The two couples really seemed confused about what they wanted. I’m guessing both their relationships were out of convenience or loneliness rather than a deeper love.

    Liked the dialogue scene near the end where the “gay” guy says he felt he had to become her boyfriend initially, because SHE was so in love with him. People like Kaja fall in love easily, and sometimes they will take anyone, and are persuasive, and it can be hard to say no if you maybe are lonely, but this obviously can cause troubles later on, if they don’t have much in common.

    A lot is left unsaid about each couple’s history, which was interesting to me, though I would have liked the characters to have been been a bit more detailed, did Sigve and kaja also find some forfillment through conversations, were any of the 4 people happy at work? We didn’t see that part of their lives much on screen. I think I’d give it a 7/10

    from Chris
    I remember picknmixflix also reviewed sykt lykkelig

    • Yeah, one could definitely say that about them especially Kaja and Eirik, but I do believe that despite his sexuality there was a strong bond between the two, at least at some point. Maybe it’s a cultural thing .. in Finland (and in Norway) “Northern” men (from Lapland) are stereotyped as silent an un-emotional, so what their true feelings were, I can’t really say.

      Yeah that was a great scene but I saw it a bit differently. I didn’t think Eirik was being completely serious when he said that, but rather combining his appreciation of her loving him and a really bad joke together. He did seem to have a problem when to tell the truth or not, and saying things overtly bluntly.

      Thanks for reading Chris!

  2. Ooh a bit of foreign language comedy? Sounds interesting. I am loving my little affair with world cinema but so often it is a drama or an action revenge flick!!

    Thanks Anna

    • I love how everything else but English is foreign. I mean, foreign to me sounds like not natural, alien. But yeh, anglocentricity all the way.
      Yeah it’s nice to see comedies from other countries and see whether there are cultural differences or not. I think that, even though it can be funny to a ‘foreigner’ it’s still going to be the funniest to a native.

      Thanks for reading Scott!

  3. Yes, the characters true feelings are tough to read, I guess that’s what makes the story interesting to watch for the subtleties, maybe there is a strong bond between both couples.I can see you being from Finland benefited in your understanding ( :

    Re. “he had to become her boyfriend initially, because SHE was so in love with him” Hadn’t thought of Eirik’s comment being ironic/non serious, thanks for that angle ! Could be you’re right, and the film is more of an 8 than a 7 afterall with this subtext, I will consider watching again!

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