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.