...If Happy Happy has anything to add, wife-swapping, political incorrectness and board games'll be all the rage too.
The feature debut of Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky creates a kind of key-party-meets-The-Shining vibe in a dead-of-winter tale about two stagnating couples living next door to one another trying to find love and meaning in between sips of coffee, sub-zero runs and cloying pleasantries which fail to mask the seething mess of relationships crumbling.
Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), a simpleton schoolteacher whose attractiveness is fading in time with her self esteem, resides in the country outside a small town with her husband, the no-frills/shut off Eirick and their misogynist toe-headed preteen son.
When tall/athletic/dashing Sigve and his too-stunning statuesque blond lawyer wife Elisabeth move in next door from the city with their adopted Ethiopian son, Noa, the worlds of city/country folk literally collide against a leafless winter backdrop.
In Kaja, Sigve finds an admirer - he is but a lingering memory of relevance in his wife's eyes. From their first dinner party encounter, Kaja's need to be loved intertwines with his need to be taken seriously. A doomed affair ensues, but because of Eirick's wanton homosexual trysts under the guise of hunting trips and Elisabeth's checkered past with fidelity, Sewitsky lures viewers into rooting on Kaja and Sigve in their quest to be understood and admired.
The script by Ragnhild Tronvoll brings the vitriol between the unlikely new pairs in the quartet to a quick boil - backlit by the little boys, growing uneasy with the parents' struggle, tripping through a rising stakes game of master and African slave - all crescendos. When else? ...Christmas Eve.
Both Sewitsky and Tronvoll seem destined for big-budget success and Happy Happy's got a shot at an art house tour if this year's Sundance economy continues its early trend back to fiscal health.
This year's fest portends mainstream film careening toward honest discourse in relationships - rather, honesty in dialogue and characters who live in the small moments. Should this come true, Happy Happy, like Norway, is a step ahead.