Happy Happy (or, Sykt Lykkelig, to give it its proper name), is an often hilarious snapshot of family life amongst the snowy plains of Norway. Bored with the everyday routine of marriage and lack of appreciation from husband, Erik (Joachim Rafaelsen), Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) welcomes the change of pace and possibility of forming a friendship with the shiny, similar aged couple that move in next door. But though Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) may have a perfect exterior, they are not necessarily as happy as they would have Kaja and Erik believe.
Sweet, full of sentiment and utterly delightful, Happy Happy shows just a fraction of the lives of a very interesting and diverse set of characters. As her husband goes hunting for days at a time, Kaja is left feeling unfulfilled and unloved, relishing in time spent with her new neighbours, while her young son Theodor (Oskar Hernaes Brandso) plays in his father’s absence with the neighbours’ adopted son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy).
Though Kaja’s son and husband may routinely (but unintentionally hurtfully) gang up on her, the film’s main focus is always on the necessity of family, with everyone going through a very important learning process, right down to Noa’s curiosity about his African heritage.
While Erik goes hunting in the mountains, leaving his family behind, everything just sort of falls into place, leaving you more than happy to simply watch these people do nothing more than simply, well, exist. And, though certain relationships and aspects of family life may appear to escalate quickly, it always feels like a natural progression for everyone in question, with personal crisis a central theme.
But though these proceedings always feel grounded and real, Happy Happy brings with it a wonderfully unique sense of fun and joy, with part of its charm lying in song and its rather bizarre use of a barbershop quartet. Where the local choir Kaja, Elisabeth and Sigve belong to is used for both social and confidence reasons, this quartet divide the film into chapters of sorts, assisting the film’s ability to keep the tone light amongst difficult circumstances. Though they may seem like an odd and rather incongruous addition at first, you won’t care just how out of place they appear by the film’s close, making a brilliantly quirky addition to the energy the rather individual Kaja powers the film along with.
With something to relate to in everyone from the inquisitive young children right up to the adults who are also still on a path of discovery, Happy, Happy is a fun dose of laughter, excitement and spontaneity with added hidden layers that is more than a little infectious.