Stars: Isabelle Huppert, Jean-Louis Trintignant, Mathieu Kassovitz, Toby Jones
A disappointing air of déjà vu hangs over Austrian provocateur Haneke’s follow-up to the masterly Amour. The opening darkly comic sequence is classic Haneke, as footage is shown from a teenager’s phone of her mother, while text messages at the bottom of the screen outline how selfish the daughter thinks her mum is, the scene culminating in the mother collapsing having been poisoned. Cut to security footage of a collapse at a Calais building sight. The site is owned by a construction company overseen by Anna Laurent (Huppert) who has taken over from her father Georges (Trintignant), an ageing widow who has lost his appetite for life – that the two character share character names and a backstory similar to the director’s last film suggests, amusingly, that this story takes place in some extended Hanekeverse. Other members of the family are equally lonely and alienated, particularly Anne’s brother Thomas (Kassovitz) who is trying to reconnect with this teenage daughter following his ex-wife’s overdose. The plight of the family is contrasted with the more immediate plight of the refugees at the other end of town. After the disarming warmth of Amour, Happy End sees the director returning to chilly formalism, while exploring familiar tropes: the interconnectedness of contemporary life; bourgeois solipsism; and bereavement, this time around with a sprinkle of Bunuel-esqe absurdism. Huppert is typically enigmatic and compelling, while Trintignant manages to wring laughter and pathos from his portrayal of the world-weary patriarch. But in trying to cover all the director’s themes, like some misanthropically dour greatest hits, the picture feels a little too diffuse and unfocussed.