Review: Happy End at Sydney Film Festival

If you’ve ever thought of your own demise you’ll quickly come to the conclusion that unfortunately life seems less exhilarating than it is. This, unfortunately was the takeaway message Michael Hanake’s Happy End left me with upon the film’s conclusion.

Happy End is not a happy film, presenting to a us quite bleak observations on the life of a family living in Calais restricted by privilege, inhibited by technology and held back by social assumptions of those different from them.

The camera acts as observer, remaining locked off for many shots, allowing the Laurent’s complexities to play out in what is the portrayal of a messed up family who seek to maintain their reputation rather than bond with one another. The Laurent family is composed of mean spirited Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant), his daughter Anne (Isabelle Huppert), her alcohol dependent son Pierre (Franz Rogowski), Anne’s brother Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) – a doctor who lacks of empathy and emotional expression, his second wife Anais (Laura Verlinden) and Thomas’ 13 year old daughter from his first marriage Eve (Fantine Harduin), who comes to live with the Laurent after her mum’s attempted suicide.

Hanake presents us with flawed observations of humanity through non-conventional displays of filmmaking technology such as the use of security footage, news stories and iPhone recording as commentary of how social media and filtered content renders us not only distant from one another, but also emotionally numb. Serving as commentary on the use of social media in the formation of relationships, everything seems temporary and emotionless in Hanake’s film, where thankfully there are a few hilarities, including a scene of a guy passionately singing a cover of Sia’s ‘Chandelier’, that help to lessen the bleak reality of a family who are psychopathic, elitist, dysfunctional and inhibited by their wealth.

Happy End plays again at Sydney Film Festival on 18th and 21st June. Details here.

See the full Sydney Film Festival programme and find out more here:



Review by Addy Fong.