Most families have a certain level of dysfunction but the Laurent family of this film seems to have more than its share. Set against the refugee problems of recent years, a French, affluent, bourgeois family features in this sometimes confrontational film. Various themes are interwoven through the story; premature death, euthanasia, intergenerational conflict, and the cyber world are all presented to us in various ways.
Many of the storylines take a while to establish and the first 30 minutes presented some confusion and unclarity for this viewer. Slowly, slowly, we begin to understand how the characters and stories fit in. The Austrian director, Michael Haneke, sends strong messages throughout the film. These focus heavily on today's electronic and cyber world usage and we get the sense he does not really agree with how the world is developing in this regard. Similarly, we get the sense that he does not like the characters of this family and uses these to draw attention to some of the deficiencies of our world. Selfishness, alcohol and drug use, lack of intimacy and kindness, all feature in the individual stories and relationships within this family.
Some of the scenes tend to be very drawn out and the film generally moves at a slow pace. The film does make the viewer think and reflect on the themes raised in this film, perhaps seeing a bit of a reflection of our own lives in small doses. It is an interesting film but the title could be somewhat misleading to viewers - there is no happy end, only more questions to ponder on.
The film has a strong cast, especially with its two leading actors, Jean-Louis Trintignant at 83 years and Isabelle Huppert, the versatile and very competent actor of many French movies. Fantine Harduin is wonderful as 12-year-old Eve, the rather lost and confused daughter from a previous marriage. Haneke has a reputation for making films that are uneasy to watch, cynical and with touches of black comedy. And so it is with this film too. If you are after a Hollywood-type happy end, then this is not for you. But if you want an interesting film that makes you think about the state of the world or at least part of it, then go and see this film.