November 19, 2011 -- A family moves to the country to get away from its problems (an extra-marital affair) only to confront more problems of the same nature. The human follies abound, running naked in the Norwegian snow, a hunting trip where no hunting takes place, a couple of foolish affairs, a boy who wants to be a modern slave master. People run amok, but everything gets sorted out eventually and rational heads prevail, sort of.
This Norwegian film takes place in a remote country location. An urban couple, Sigve (played by Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens) along with their adopted son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy) move in next door to their landlords, Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen) and Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) along with their young son, Theodor (Oskar Hernæs Brandsø). The two families settle into an uneasy relationship which quickly gets way too complicated.
The way things get started and the relationships that develop, it looks like somebody is going to pull out a gun and start shooting people. Fortunately, this is a lighter movie that it first appears to be. There are fights, anger and confrontations, but nobody gets seriously hurt. Instead the comedy inherent in the situation comes to the fore. The two couples are unhappy for different reasons. The two marriages have very different dynamics. Kaja is an eternal optimist. In a way she is similar to a character, Pauline “Poppy” Cross (Sally Hawkins) in another movie with a similar name, “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Although Kaja has a much greater emotional arc in this film than Poppy does, she is usually upbeat.
It is hard for Kaja to be upbeat because her husband, Eirik, is always trying to put her down, telling her she is not talented, not attractive and that she dresses poorly. He heaps scorn on her. Her son, Theodor, identifies with his father, and participates in putting Kaja down. In one scene Theodor and Eirik both give Kaja a mean stare at the kitchen table until she is forced to leave. Then, they give each other a celebratory high five. Theodor also likes to lord it over Noa, who is both smaller and less aggressive than Theodor. In one scene he rolls Noa up in a rug. In another, he administers a mock beating as if he was Theodor's slave. When Theodor finally gets his comeuppance, Noa enjoys the moment greatly.
Things could have gotten very ugly, but Kaja does all right for herself. She comes out of her shell and asserts her own will. The ending of the film isn't exactly rosy, but it is less of a train wreck than you might expect, considering all the high jinks that go on before and all the bad blood from past wrongs. In addition to a light musical score, the film begins with music from a talented foursome, who sing some American folk and spiritual songs in English. From time to time, the film cuts away to another, seemingly unrelated musical performance by the same four, Hans Martin Austestad (who also did the song arrangements) N.C. Fossdal, H. Rasmussen and M. Myrland. The film also includes choir music. Kaja sings “Amazing Grace” in English during the film as part of a choir show.
I'm not sure what all this music has to do with the movie. Maybe it is about harmony. The music is in harmony, but the lives of the people in the film are out of harmony. At any rate, it is a fairly good film. It rates a B.
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