DRAMA / FRANCE / 2019 / 101 MINS / MA15+
Confirming her place as the reigning queen of the French screen in Hirokazu Kore-eda’s recent French-language film, The Truth (La vérité), Catherine Deneuve is equally as impressive and funny in Happy Birthday – a tight-knit drama directed by and costarring Cédric Kahn (AF FFF10, Regrets; AF FFF06, L’Avion) about a family turned upside-down when faced with an unexpected mental health crisis.
During the 70th birthday celebration of Andréa (Catherine Deneuve, Farewell to the Night and classic Donkey Skin screening at this year’s Festival), sibling rivalries, tensions and jealousies threaten to destroy what should be a happy occasion.
As Andréa’s two sons, Vincent (played by Kahn himself) and Romain (Vincent Macaigne, AF FFF19, Non-Fiction; AF FFF18, Reinventing Marvin), and their families start to bicker, proceedings become more fraught with the surprise arrival of Andréa’s long-lost daughter, Claire (Emmanuelle Bercot, AF FFF19, Girls of the Sun; AF FFF17, 150 Milligrams). Personal vices rear their ugly heads and Andréa’s birthday quickly spirals out of control, giving viewers a dinner party scene to remember.
An emotional, moving depiction of a family in turmoil, Kahn brings a deliberately theatrical quality to Happy Birthday, highlighting the explosiveness of secrets that have remained carefully hidden for years.
French with English subtitles.
“Between fantasy and tragedy, Cédric Kahn’s chamber film plunges into the troubles of a family, scratching beneath the surface of mere appearances.”– Cineuropa
“This mix of tenderness and irritation will be familiar to most people who have attended large family gatherings.”– Hollywood Reporter
“As usual, Deneuve’s actorly instincts are extremely precise, down to her smallest gesture.”– Hollywood Reporter
DIRECTED BY: Cédric Kahn
STARRING: Catherine Deneuve, Emmanuelle Bercot, Vincent Macaigne, Cédric Kahn, Laetitia Colombani