All one need know about Happy End is that it’s a sequel to Amour. Viewers who enjoyed round one with Michael Haneke’s deeply miserable Laurent family are practically guaranteed to have a ball with the continuance of their story — and those who didn’t may give it a miss.
His wife now dead, elderly patriarch Georges (Jean-Louis Trintignant) is intent on joining her, but can’t quite figure out how to do it. His latest suicide attempt coincides with his preteen granddaughter Eve (Fantine Harduin) moving in to the family estate in Calais with her estranged father Thomas (Mathieu Kassovitz), and — in the closest the film comes to having a plot — as Georges gets to know Eve, he wonders if he’s found a kindred morbid soul who may help him cease to exist.
Though one early static long take actually has a payoff, it proves a rarity in the latest work from a director who prefers his audience to squirm for no reward. In the wake of that promising shift, the trouble with Happy End is that Haneke practically avoids putting viewers through the usual faux-suspenseful steps at all. There’s pretty much nothing about Georges’ daughter Anne (Isabelle Huppert) and her British boyfriend Lawrence (Toby Jones) that’s of consequence, and the same goes for Thomas’ infidelity and whatever’s going on with Anne’s deranged son Pierre (Franz Rogowski).
Like all Haneke films, Happy End is well acted, technically sound and even tries new — though largely fruitless — things with the inclusion of Eve’s phone video with text commentary and Facebook messenger chats that take up the whole screen. But minus incentives to care about what’s occurring within the well-lit and finely crafted frames, what’s the point of tuning in?
Grade: D-plus. Rated R. Now playing at Grail Moviehouse
(Photo: Sony Pictures Classics)