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Shit Happens

A funny, sweet and sad comedy about families and how to survive them, "Shit Happens" shows a new maturity in the work of writer-director duo Mans Herngren and Hannes Holm. Pic is less of a crowd-pleaser than their internationally successful "Adam & Eve," due to its more serious approach to both subject and filmmaking, but is nonetheless well worth checking out by buyers.

A funny, sweet and sad comedy about families and how to survive them, “Shit Happens” shows a new maturity in the work of writer-director duo Mans Herngren and Hannes Holm. Pic is less of a crowd-pleaser than their internationally successful “Adam & Eve,” due to its more serious approach to both subject and filmmaking, but is nonetheless well worth checking out by buyers.

Story centers on three sisters, Sophia (Josefin Nilsson), Gina (Marie Richardson, from “Eyes Wide Shut”) and Tina (Cecilia Frode). Sophia recently met Freddie (Jacob Ericksson) and is expecting a child by him. Gina is married to Roffe (Peter Dalle) and is still childless despite considerable efforts. Tina has several kids by notorious jailbird Pulver (Peter Wahlbeck) and is now awaiting his release from prison.

The sisters’ mother, Solveig (Bibi Andersson), is one of those women who can never let go and never realizes when her advice is not wanted. Their father, Tage (Gosta Ekman), is a taciturn man who’s clearly not happy with his life and desperately wants something new to happen.

After Sophia and Freddie have their child, she accepts the lead role in a new crime series on TV, telling Freddie it’s only a small part and won’t interfere with her taking care of their child. But she’s soon forced to use both her mother and Tina as baby-sitters, and Freddie, who’s quit working to take care of the baby, grows more desperate.

Meanwhile, the childless Gina is jealous of Sophia, and this puts her marriage to Roffe under strain. He, in turn, is behaving suspiciously, and may have a mistress. And Tage has suddenly taken up jogging and working out. One day in the street, the women in the family discover why: He has a mistress half his age.

Separate strands are interwoven into an entertaining but truthfully sad story of how not only love but jealousy, mistrust and misdirected actions can almost destroy a family. Despite this, pic ends on a happy note.

In “Adam & Eve,” Herngren and Holm experimented with different filmmaking styles, including the language of TV commercials, to illustrate the nightmares of the protagonist. Stylistically more straightforward, “Shit Happens” does not resort to technical trickery to hold the attention.

Acting is fine overall, though scenes between Richardson and Nilsson, as two of the sisters, tend to accentuate the fact that the former is a professional actress and the latter is not. Special kudos is due Andersson, who shines brighter than she has for many years in the role of the misunderstood, needy mother, and to Ekman, who makes the father someone to root for. A scene in which he sits behind his newfound g.f. on her motorcycle and lets out a long liberated scream of freedom is alone worth the price of admission.

Shit Happens

(SWEDEN)

Production: A Buena Vista Intl. (Sweden) release of an S/S Fladen Film/SVT Drama Malmo production, in association with Canal Plus. (International sales: S/S Fladen, Stockholm.) Produced by Patrick Ryborn. Directed, written by Mans Herngren, Hannes Holm. Camera (color), Mats Olofsson; editor, Sofia Lindgren; music, Magnus Frykberg, Pal Svende; art director, Mikael Varhalyi; costume designer, Karin Sundvall; sound (Dolby), Per Nystrom, Anders Horling. Reviewed at Bio Victor, Stockholm, Jan. 18, 2000. Running time: 114 MIN.

With: With: Josefin Nilsson, Marie Richardson, Cecilia Frode, Jacob Ericksson, Bibi Andersson, Gosta Ekman, Peter Dalle, Calle Kugelberg, Willie Kugelberg, Jan Mybrand, Peter Wahlbeck, Ulla-Britt Norrman, Lennart Jahkel.

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