Sony Pictures Classics
The latest slow-burn drama from Michael Haneke, Happy End, initially appears to strain for focus. Haneke takes an otherwise compelling theme—every member of the affluent Laurent family is unhappy, most of them unwilling to admit or dwell on their loved ones’ pain—and develops it through sketch-thin characterizations. But as it becomes increasingly clear, Haneke is showing us the various familial influences that contribute to the alienation felt by troubled 13-year-old Eve Laurent (Fantine Harduin), a despondent loner who’s forced to live with her estranged father, Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), after she poisons her biological mother. By juxtaposing various bite-sized vignettes of Eve’s family as they confront various moments of personal grief or weakness, Haneke tells us all we need to know in order to make up our own minds about why Eve behaves the way that she does.