Björn Runge’s melodrama “Happy End” forces the issue upon four characters through their individual story-lines interacting with the central character Joanna (Ann Petrén), a widowed driving instructor whose personal life has hit a road-block after the husband’s passing, and her grown-up son Peter’s (Gustaf Skarsgård) suicidal tendency. The film begins with the breakup of Peter’s relationship following another failed attempt, which results in him moving in with his mother.
Peter falls for Joanna’s young house cleaner, Katrine (Malin Buska), who herself is clinging, against every reason, to an abusive relationship with manic-depressive Asger (Johan Widerberg), who also happens to have gotten into debt with some thuggish moneylenders – money he borrowed for his failed restaurant venture. A deal is struck between Joanna and Katrine which initially helps Peter regain a semblance of normalcy and resume his painting activity, but it doesn’t last. In her own personal life, Joanna is reluctant to entertain a different kind of relationship from one of her clients Mårten (Peter Andersson), a widower himself. It takes a series of mini-storms to blow away the cobwebs and change the fortunes of the main characters.
While the film has its merits, mainly on the performance side – the Swedes seem to be churning out accomplished actors by the dozen, it isn’t helped by the rather clichéd characterisation – a throwback to the 50’s and 60’s. As for the cinematography, director Runge has experimented with a colour-coded palette to differentiate characters’ circumstances and their moods – something extensively discussed among the DVD extras, which while impressive on its own, was needlessly distracting, perhaps even adding to the characters’ cliché. But on the plus side, you have a happy, if predictable ending, which should please at least some viewers.
The Nudity: Malin Buska and Gustaf Skarsgård
There is nudity from pretty and talented Malin Buska on at least three occasions, and Gustaf Skarsgård on one. They’re fairly well done, helped of course by some good acting from the relevant cast.