Happy. Any reason not to be?
In rural, snow-covered Norway, Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), is excited to meet the new neighbors. She wonders if the woman would be beautiful and thin; while her husband Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) and her son Theodor (Oskar Hernæ Brandsø) would look on disinterested. When the new neighbors finally arrive Kaja in an overwhelmingly, fiery demeanor that she comes off as a bit much to their new neighbors, as she imagines that the new family is perfect.
Considering all that is going on in her life, it is amazing that she can maintain enough energy to smile. Her husband hasn’t slept with her for nearly a year, and he says it is due to her recurrent yeast infection. He also says to her later, that she doesn’t take care of her body—and that she is always begging. Kittelsen is excitable to watch as Kaja. Her ‘too happy’ personality succeeds in counteracting the angry and arrogant mood of her husband. Even when he issues his harshest words, Kaja keeps on smiling, and her husband goes out to sleep in a makeshift tent called a lavvu.
The new neighbors have their set of problems—Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) is not too happy about moving to the middle of nowhere. Her husband Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen), believes it would be good for both them and their adopted Ethiopian son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy) to stay in the rural country, to sort out the problems in their marriage—which leads into a sexual relationship between Sigve and Kaja—-which then lead into a totally unwanted “Kiss” by Eirik and Sigve. It goes without saying that these two couples are deeply rooted, marital difficulties: Elisabeth and Sigve moved to the rural Norway was because of an affair, and Eirik no longer sleeps with his wife because he is homosexual.
If the film’s emotional quarreling between adults weren’t enough, the two boys engage in their conflict: Theodor found a book on slavery and forces Noa to become his personal slave—where he endured verbal insults and physical abuse. Precisely why the racial meanderings between the two boys are included in the film isn’t clear, as it did not “match-up” with the main story between the adults–which is the most interesting story. Perhaps to show that the parents were so consumed with their “adult” matters, that the issues with children are of little or no concern. What more, there is an intermittent acapella chorus robbing you of benefiting from the reeling in of the couple’s emotional issues—belting harmonious spirituals that truly tracked worthy–yet were not necessary and threw the most intense scenes between the adults from their pensive mood.
Perhaps sex is comedy?
Overall–Happy, Happy isn’t a ‘happy’ film. It is an excellent film about a prevailing sadness. It has its subtle comedic moments, cleverly woven in the disaster of marital infidelities. You are watching and rooting for Kaja and no matter how much, or how hard Kaja tries to make herself, and everyone around her, happy–her efforts go under-appreciated. It isn’t until the very end; every sum of the film’s “emotional heavies” will leave you feeling perhaps dejected–as Kaja’s happiness seemed helplessly forced. It is sadly understood why at the beginning of the film, she was excited about the possibility of making new friends.
What I admired most about “Happy,” is that it offered a moment of unexpected opportunity, to reflect on relationships and honesty, the feeling of being in love, and above all, the importance of family.
Happy, Happy (Syjt Kyjjekug) is a Norwegian comedy directed by award-winning Norwegian filmmaker Anne Sewitsky, written by Ragnhild Tronvoll and Mette M. Bølstad. The film stars Agnes Kittelsen (The Girl, Who Kicked The Hornets’ Nest), Henrik Rafaelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen (I Am Dina), and Maribritt Saerens. Happy, Happy is the winner of the world cinema jury prize at Sundance 2010; and Norway’s official entry for Best Foreign Language Film at the 2011 Academy Awards.