You can't help but laugh at the obviousness in Happy, Happy. Two Norwegian couples become neighbors in a snowy rural town, and the signs for trouble are clear the minute we see one of the husbands watching amateur wrestling before bed. That would be Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen), who's married to Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), who's all too ecstatic about Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens), renting the adjacent house she and Eirik own.
When Eirik and Sigve do stretches after a run, the framing turns their thrusts into a comically suggestive exercise. But Sigve is already, well, exercising with Kaja at this point. And as long as this movie is about these relationships, it's perceptive, even as the behavior has been rigged to get us from Scene A to Scene B. Why, for instance, would Kaja and Sigve flaunt their affair as they do in church before choir rehearsal? So someone can happen upon it and get us to Scene C.
Working from a script by Ragnhild Tronvoll and Mette M. Bolstad, director Anne Sewitsky commits herself to the psyches of the characters rather than to the sensationalism that might entice a shallower filmmaker. We're allowed to understand Eirik's misogyny and Kaja's absorption of it. Elisabeth is an imposing, judgmental blonde, and while there's really no understanding what she's feeling, we like Sigve enough to trust whatever it is he sees in her. Even before his explanation, you also know why he's drawn to Kaja - she's Elisabeth's absurdly polite opposite. Kittelsen offers a delicate, touching performance.
The character, meanwhile, is the object of blunt hostility, sometimes from her own young son, Theodor (Oskar Hernaes Brandso). Theodor finds a book about slavery and takes it upon himself to play master with Sigve and Elisabeth's adopted African son, Noa (Ram Shihab Ebedy), the culmination of which involves the white child whipping his shirtless black neighbor. These scenes flirt with disaster, while simultaneously doing the rest of the movie a disservice.