A low-key drama about the reluctant friendship between a young man and an old woman, “Happy End” has its most appealing asset in the perf by veteran Bergman actress Harriet Andersson, who paints a moving portrait of a dying woman. Her name alone should get this one on the festival circuit.
Lukas (Stefan Norrthon) dreams of becoming a rock star and, to avoid having to work in his father’s garage, the 29-year-old goes to Gotland, an island off the west coast of Sweden. His father has an apartment there, but to Lukas’ surprise it’s been sublet to Marja (Andersson), a 69-year-old writer. She’s planned to spend the summer there, penning her memoirs, and is not amused by the thought of having a young man around. She throws him out.
After his luggage and guitar are stolen, Lukas befriends a couple of twentysomethings, Greger (Robert Jelinek) and Bamse (AlexanderSkarsgard, son of actor Stellan Skarsgard), who live in a van and are planning to drive down to Germany. But circumstances lead to Lukas’ sleeping on Marja’s couch and, when she has problems with her laptop, Lukas gets to stay on in return for taking down what she dictates.
A reluctant friendship starts to develop, and Lukas becomes slowly drawn into the story of Marja’s life, dominated by a father who was never around and turned out to be a major-league liar. When Lukas discovers Marja’s dark secret, their friendship is put to the test.
Told in an undramatic way, the story provides ample scope for the two leads to create believable characters. Now 67, Andersson is still a gem, her eyes and wrinkled, beautiful face radiating both happiness and bitterness without words. Newcomer Norrthon is occasionally stilted but has a presence that could become interesting if developed in the right way.
Overall, pic is more uneven than director Christina Olofson’s last feature, “Truth or Dare” (1997), and a subplot about a couple living in a trailer next to Greger and Bamse is underdeveloped and confusing. Still, it’s a thoroughly watchable film and Andersson glows in a part that seems to have been written for her. Tech credits are fine, apart from the repetitive guitar-driven main theme.