Release Date(s)2017 (July 24, 2018)
Studio(s)X-Filme Creative Pool (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment)
- Film/Program Grade: B
- Video Grade: A
- Audio Grade: A
- Extras Grade: D
Being part of a dysfunctional family can be tough, and living with family members who have serious problems can often lead to many unpleasant moments. Happy End is a tale about just such a family with themes of depression, suicide, infidelity, and other self-destructive behaviors, which are all too common in the lives of millions of people in our society.
Happy End is a French/German/Austrian co-production about a middle-upper class family, the Laurents, who live in a large mansion in the French city of Calais. George Laurent (Jean-Louis Trintignant), the patriarch of the family, has dementia which is worsening day by day, to the point that he wants to commit suicide. His daughter, Anne (Isabelle Huppert), is a divorced mother with an adult son named Pierre (Franz Rogowski), who battles depression, alcoholism, and mental instability. Anne struggles to keep her family’s construction business running because Pierre is incapable of doing so. George’s son Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz) is married to Anais (Laura Verlinden) and having an affair with another woman. He also has a 13-year-old daughter named Eve (Fantine Harduin) who is very disturbed.
At times, Eve seems to be the central character as she is aware of all of the darkness surrounding her family, causing her to commit some rather devious and startling things to both herself and her family while recording it on her phone. For a family that is doing well financially, they appear to be weak on the inside as they are unable to handle any setbacks or personal issues in their lives. Despite the fact that they are well off, they are miserable. Not far from them are refugee camps that are having problems with their living conditions and the unhappy Laurents are completely oblivious to these people, who seem to have a greater desire to live than members of this wealthy family.
Happy End is a deep, emotional, thought-provoking film. The characters are all interesting and the actors all hand in fantastic performances, with a great deal of chemistry between them all. I can’t even begin to emphasize how great Fantine Harduin is playing the young and troubled Eve. Two of the key cast members, Jean-Louis Trintignant and Isabelle Huppert, have even worked together before, playing father and daughter in the 2012 film Armour. The lack of music also works well here, giving the film a sinister and eerie feeling. Presented with Christian Berger’s beautiful cinematography, director Haneke holds the film together with an intentionally methodical pace, delivering a not-too-subtle message about how being affluent doesn’t necessarily lead to happiness.
Presented on Blu-ray (BD-R) courtesy of Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Happy End is a strong release. The abundance of outdoor scenery, be it the green trees, tall buildings, or beautiful blue skies among the clouds, looks breathtaking. The interiors of the mansion also look rich, with great depth and textures. Skin tones look accurate and incredibly detailed in close-ups, highlighting tears, five o’clock shadow, and skin blemishes. The audio track for this release is a French 5.1 DTS-HD track that comes in clear and is perfectly adequate. The actors who are bilingual speak both French and English at different intervals during the film. There are also forced English subtitles when characters are speaking French and optional English subtitles elsewhere. A second audio option, an English audio descriptive track, is also available.
Extras include The Making of Happy End, which is basically the cast and crew reflecting upon the film, and the original theatrical trailer. Also worth mentioning is the fact that Sony is using pressed discs for their manufactured on-demand program, so whatever qualms there are about them using BD-R discs, they can be put to rest.
Happy End is an eye-opening film and should be seen by both fans of contemporary foreign cinema and those who admire director Michael Haneke’s work. No matter how you feel about the film afterwards, the viewing experience is a pleasure because of how fantastic the film looks in high definition.
- David Steigman