A remarkably intelligent yet cheeky and immature adventure into old age, Happy Ending is a sincere and hilarious film that proves the struggles of love, loss and self-discovery are truly ageless.
The opening night film screening of the 2019 Volvo Scandinavian Film Festival, the Danish comedy Happy Ending, is a film that takes a deep dive into a subject that often seems tabooed in modern cinema – love (and other things) in older couples. Following Peter and Helle – a married couple both in or approaching their 70’s – as they suddenly decide to divorce after Peter’s long-awaited retirement, Happy Ending tells the familiar story of second chances and life after love from a perspective seldom seen on the silver screen.
While many things change with age, the antics committed by the newly single seniors are not far off what you’d expect from 20-somethings: from texting scantily-clad photos to lying on online dating profiles and all the acting out that comes from ending a long-term relationship. In examining the complexity of Peter and Helle’s situation, director Hella Joof manages to create some of the most uproarious funny situations that are almost unmatched in modern western comedies.
That being said, the film does an excellent job of keeping audiences of all backgrounds engaged, with the central narrative being a well know turmoil to many. In telling this story, through gorgeous cinematography and subtle colour pallets, the film captures the serene beauty of Denmark and expresses much of the humour and character of that region.
Paired with these stunning visuals, the use of English and Danish songs – alongside some of the most outlandish comedic predicaments to see elderly people in – will no doubt make Happy Ending a film that appeals to western and Scandinavian audiences alike. While the music is a great comedic aid throughout, the film’s visual storytelling – with powerful and often hilarious shots that tell the audience exactly what the characters are feeling – creates a compelling visual narrative regardless of the language being spoken (but don’t worry, there are English subtitles).
But perhaps the greatest achievement of Happy Ending is the profound and nuanced messages of self-discovery and acceptance that are scattered throughout the story. While many filmmakers struggle enough to get humour across in a film at all, Joof manages to create outrageous, side-splitting laughs out of genuine dramatic tension, all while organically working in some of the more touching messages the film gets across.
A heart-warming and boldly original story that holds back nothing in its exploration of fulfilment and self-discovery, Happy Ending is an intricate and sophisticated adult narrative that is equal parts earnest and entertaining.