Happy End?!, directed by Petra Clever, is a German film that surprisingly is just as enjoyable to read as it is to watch. Normally a native English speaker might feel torn or forced to bounce their eyes back and forth between the subtitles and the actors, yet there is so much poetry in the script I was tempted to write down each insight as I read it and heard it performed.
Lucca, played by Sinha Melina Gierke, is an 18-year-old soon-to-be Harvard Law student that has her life (supposedly) all planned out, yet writes about her indecisiveness in a creative, melancholy manner. Any viewer can empathize with Lucca, who sits nervously at a crossroads, wondering what other options are out there besides ending up at her father's law firm and eventually running one herself.
Lucca narrates the words she types into her laptop and we listen, entranced by her uncanny talent for description.
"I want to show my true colors but grey is all the rage right now," Lucca writes, "I want to make a mark but the ground stays clean."
Lucca represents the moment before a change, the moment when one feels frustrated, unhappy and unfulfilled yet remains unsure as to what comes next.
An unlawful misunderstanding ends with Lucca sentenced to hours of community service, to be spent at the office of a hospice facility. The characters she meets while at the center introduce her to their varying lifestyles, all of which contrast with the destiny she's dreading for herself. She finds freedom from her father, who tries desperately and in vain to keep Lucca from straying from the predetermined path, the fast track to Harvard.
Happy End?! is certainly an LGBTQ film, yet the focus of the piece is not on the rights or social issues associated with varying sexual orientations (although we do get a sense that the older generation of Germany has yet to fully accept the lesbian variety). Happy End?! focuses more on the introverted thoughts and the emotional journey of a young woman trying to find herself, compared to Appropriate Behavior or Out in the Night, which both attempt to, on some level, deconstruct the social issues surrounding different cultures and sexualities.
When Lucca initiates a kiss with Valerie, played by Verena Wustkamp, one of her many hospice acquaintances, one wonders if Lucca is kissing Valerie herself or kissing Lucca's perception of Valerie, whose take-life-by-the-horns attitude is attractively the opposite of how Lucca was raised. The physical contact is real yet short-lived, as we later find out the very finite reasons their relationship simply can't last.
Happy End?! confronts metaphorical death; life lived mechanically without much intention, through the cause and effect of an actual death during the film. By the end of Happy End?!, the credits become blurry as you start to contemplate your own life and what it means to really be alive, to choose between a life planned out for you or to truly pursue what you think you might want.
Happy End?! is nothing short of an inspirational film for those at a crossroads, or for the viewers who haven't figured out where to go next.
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