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One Movie Punch

Feb 28, 2018

Today’s movie is “My Happy Family” (2017), the Netflix Original film from Georgia written by Nana Ekvtimishvili and directed in collaboration with Simon Groβ. The film follows Manana (Ia Shugliashvili), a 52-year-old woman living in a multigenerational home, including her parents Lamara (Berta Ninidze) and Otar (Goven Cheishvili), her husband Soso (Merab Ninidze), and her two children. One day, sick of living under their roof and meeting their expectations, she decides to move out on her own.

Ia Shugliashvili is amazing as Manana, a delightfully complex character in an excellent script. I’ve never lived in a multi-generational home, growing up during the peak individualism of 1980s and 1990s exurban, mostly white world. I can say that after one beautifully constructed montage of Manana’s life, however, that I would have never made it as long as she did, the perfect setup for this film that builds not only her character, but our relationship and identification with her character.

“My Happy Family” makes great use of locations around Tbilisi, including open-air markets, a few different neighborhoods and social strata, and showing the transitory nature of Georgia’s social, cultural and political spheres. While all these locations and themes are present, they never take the focus away from Manana’s personal journey towards reclaiming her life, and almost always support her story.

The film makes great use of traditional and contemporary music, with musical numbers acting as transitions between scenes, the obvious exception being Manana’s breathtaking solo performance. The use of music is reminiscent of the more intentionally musical “Once”, almost a folk overview of Georgia. I hope the soundtrack becomes available at some point.

“My Happy Family” (2017) is like Betty Friedan’s “The Feminine Mystique”, sitting at a social, cultural and political transition in Georgia and in particular, the perceived role of women within that society. Manana’s journey is both empowering and tragic, which Shugliashvili brings forward with an incredibly reserved, realistic performance, and set against the traditional and modern culture of Georgia. If you enjoy international movies and peering into the rising cultures across the globe, then this film is definitely for you.

My sincere apologies for any mangled names.

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%

Metacritic: 86

One Movie Punch: 8.6/10

“My Happy Family” is rated TV-14 and is currently streaming on Netflix.