Over a glorious career that has seen him elevated to the pinnacle of international filmmakers, Michael Haneke has demonstrated a cool command of the subjects under his directorial microscope. With "Happy End", the follow-up and partial sequel to 2012's "Amour" — winner of both the Palme d'Or and the Academy Award for Foreign Language Film, among many other honours — the master maintains his trademark control while expanding the previous film's scale considerably. "Amour" was spare in its unblinking concentration on three characters. "Happy End", a bleakly comedic flipside by comparison, expands the story to form a kaleidoscopic portrait of both a family and a society in deep chill.
The ironically titled film follows the antics, meticulously noted, of "Amour's" high-strung Laurent clan. Anne (Isabelle Huppert) has taken over the family business from her ailing father, Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant). The cast broadens to include Anne's fiancé (Toby Jones), her deadbeat son (Franz Rogowski), her brother (Matthieu Kassovitz), who has just been saddled with his 12-year-old daughter from a previous marriage (Fantine Harduin), and a pair of Moroccan servants (Nabiha Akkari, Hassam Ghancy).
The dark side of domestic dynamics continues to haunt Haneke's work in "Happy End". As Anne, prim and proper, tries to keep everything together, she finds she has a worthy foe in the form of her young niece. As things start to spin into chaos, Haneke guides us through another masterpiece of familial dysfunction.
- Piers Handling, Toronto Film Festival