Adultery in Wool Sweaters: Couples Come Apart in Norway's Happy, Happy


Happy, Happy
Directed by Anne Sewitsky
Magnolia Pictures
Opens September 16, Landmark Sunshine

One miserable couple collides with another in the cringe comedy Happy, Happy, a prizewinner at Sundance and Norway’s official submission for the foreign-language-film Oscar. Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), a chipper teacher of German and “arts and crafts” at a local junior high, lives to please her disengaged closet-case husband, Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen), and their casually cruel son, Theodor. Enter the new tenants of the house across the way. A pair of introductory board-game nights later, and to her surprise, Kaja has initiated a stealth affair (improbably, given the close quarters) with Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), the husband of Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens), a lawyer of Danish extraction whose own infidelity motivated the country retreat. While they all sneak about in supremely cozy-looking sweaters, young Theodor taunts Noa, Elisabeth and Sigve’s Ethiopian adopted son, into playing a game of “slave.” Director Anne Sewitsky, here making her feature debut, also periodically cuts to an obviously Nordic quartet lip-synching American spirituals directly into the camera. Perhaps Sewitsky, working from a screenplay by Ragnhild Tronvoll, means to underscore that this is a story about overcoming prejudices to gain self-respect; perhaps she’s just going for gleefully un-PC quirk. Either way, the questionable black-historical shorthand detracts from what is otherwise a well-performed and fitfully amusing film.


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