By Camila Poblete Contributor
Don’t be fooled by the ironic title. “My Happy Family” explores disturbing familial truths present in most cultures. The film is a Georgian drama directed by Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross. It follows a 50-year-old woman who leaves her family to live on her own, breaking tradition through a small act of women’s liberation. The following review contains minor spoilers.
Each scene leaves us with more questions than answers, with a sense of urgency. “My Happy Family” begins with our main character, Manana. We learn that she currently lives with her family, made up of her parents, her husband, two adult children and her son-in-law. Family life is consistent with what you might find in a crowded apartment, full of love along with tension.
After speaking with a student in her literature class, a recently married young woman who has decided to divorce her husband for simply not being able to connect with him, Manana gives herself a simple resolution. Instead of fighting with her family as she struggles to define her boundaries, she leaves her family without explanation. The only explanation she offers throughout the movie is that she desires space for herself—a space to read and eat cake as she pleases. On her own, Manana learns to enjoy the simple pleasures of life, alone.
The movie continues with Manana always at the forefront, but only through glimpses of interactions with her family. Ekvtimishvili and Gross offer a clear picture of the family dynamic by contrasting three generations of Georgian women and their lifestyles. On screen, there are little details that act as the aftermath of larger events offscreen.
Her family continues to pressure her to come back or offer an explanation. Her elderly father talks about death while her elderly mother worries about embarrassment. Her daughter’s husband is cheating, and we only hear the details of the fight after the fact. Her son is getting married to a woman he impregnated, but we do not know when or how they met. At a school reunion, after Manana reveals she has divorced her husband some time before, she discovers her husband has cheated and has a son with another woman.
“My Happy Family” serves as a portrait of a woman trying to find her place and peace of mind, while offering a glimpse into Georgian life. This is the type of film to make you think about your personal life, and reflect on your actions and opinions to try to understand how you have affected those closest to you. A excellent independent foreign film, “My Happy Family” offers a different type of storytelling than other dramas. It was featured at Sundance Film Festival and was released on Netflix on Dec. 1, 2017.