Though its theme is hardly new — a young woman trying to find her place in contempo society — there’s a fresh and invigorating feel to “Love & Happiness” that makes it worth a look, despite last year’s heavy output of similar Swedish pics. Good reviews should result in solid local B.O. for this first outing by writer-director Kristina Humle, with future fest exposure a possibility.
Twenty-year-old Minna (newcomer Henna Ohranen, excellent) lives in the countryside town of Eriksberg, where she works in the kitchen of a large factory. Her mother is dead, and her father (Dag Malmberg) has a new wife (Lena Nilsson), who finally persuades Minna to find a place of her own.
Minna is dissatisfied with her life but can’t put a finger on what’s eating her. She falls in love with her driving instructor, Tomas (Tobias Aspelin), and, although he has a fiancee, they embark on an affair. Meanwhile, Ronny (Jonas Hellman-Driessen), who’s Minna’s age, tries to get her interested in him in a rather aggressive way.
Minna’s best friend, Simone (Erica Koop Nedrell), seems satisfied with small-town life. When Minna’s dad invites Jesper (Andreas La Chenardiere), a famous young chef in Stockholm, to come to Eriksberg to cook a birthday meal for his wife, boy-crazy Simone seduces Jesper, with unexpected consequences.
“Love & Happiness” is a small, unpretentious and charming film that most of the time rings true to life. It’s clear Humle has firsthand experience of living in a place like the fictional Eriksberg, and she brings even more authenticity to the story by almost exclusively using new and unknown actors. Big letdown is the final scene, where a happy ending simply pops out of the blue.
Lenser Marek Wieser’s use of muted colors underlines the claustrophobic feel of such towns, and their lack of any special scenic appeal.