Happy Ending

by Toby Woollaston

heVerdict: A lightweight but pleasant romantic comedy with a satisfying final kick.

Although Happy Ending’s prophetic title might give away how this Danish dramedy finishes, the ending mightn’t be quite what you’d expect. For a film that traverses the well-trod topic of a retired couple breakup, Happy Ending does its best to break with traditions before the final credits roll and what is predominantly a lightweight fluffy meringue of a film ends as something a little more thought-provoking.

Married couple Helle (Birthe Neumann) and Peter (Kurt Ravn) see retirement quite differently. Peter is a silver fox suffering (or blossoming, depending on how you look at it) from a late-life-crisis and unwilling to give up on his masculine agency. However, Helle sees retirement as a time to reconnect with an-all-but-absent husband previously consumed by his work. With opposing philosophies thrust upon them, their marriage begins to blow in the breeze as the two go down very different paths.

In her eighth feature Danish director Hella Joof (Shake It, Bitter Sweetheart) has taken the retired couple marriage breakup routine—something that has almost become a cliche—and updated it for the modern age. Joof is an experienced director; black, female and lives in a progressive Nordic country—plenty of reasons for her to have carte blanche on topics of feminism and race. Yet, despite a few pointed barbs Happy Ending is surprisingly reserved, opting instead to gloss over the gloomier and gender-weary battlegrounds of marriage.

Acting veterans Neumann and Ravn (who have previously worked together) provide a good amount of chemistry and run through an even-keeled screenplay that keeps the story predictable but pleasant. That is, until the film’s final stanza where things take a curious but satisfying turn.

Happy Ending isn’t a particularly demanding watch, nor will it crease you over with laughter, but it manages to push juuuust enough boundaries to keep things interesting. And the happy ending? Well, that depends on your definition of happiness.

See my reviews for the NZ Herald here and for Witchdoctor here.