My Happy Family Review: A gem from Georgia

Georgian drama is about a middle-aged woman’s sudden decision to live alone, moving away from her transgenerational — and eccentric — family. It is, at once, a brilliant exploration of feminism and evolving societal values



by

Sushmita Bose

Published: Fri 28 Oct 2022, 8:14 PM

For some time now, Georgia — and its capital Tbilisi — are often talked about being a travel destination, especially if one is a resident in the Middle East. Easy to access, gorgeous landscapes, lovely people and value for money. While most of us have had Georgia on our minds as a tourist attraction, we don’t really have much of handle on the local culture, its social oddities and quirks. Which is why when I chanced upon My Happy Family on Netflix recently, I immediately decided to give it a shot.

The movie begins with giving us a peek into a ‘typical’ Georgian family. A traditional homestead is transgenerational. Grandparents, parents, children, grandchildren, everyone lives together in a chaotic ensemble. And so it begins with this particular family, which is not particularly unhappy, but lends itself to affable and annoying politics and emotional blackmail. Manana (a superlative Ia Shugliashvili) is the person holding a dysfunctional family together; she’s middle-aged (her age is not mentioned specifically — even though there’s a birthday celebrated — but she’d probably be around 50) and quietly attractive, but weighed down by the relentless routine that follows her as she tends to her grouchy parents (not in-laws, but her own), her emotionally distant (read: selfish) but not bad-intentioned husband Soso, her daughter and son-in-law and her unambitious son, while also juggling a clerical job.

As she tries to keep her wits about her, while grudgingly loving her varied family members, she decides to start living on her own terms. Her first step would be to find her own apartment. She zeroes in on one that she can afford, and the next onerous task on hand is to announce her intent to her family. She does it at the dinner table, and obviously all hell breaks loose.

Manana is adamant and does actually move away — even though she stays in touch with everyone and visits the family at all important occasions — and from thereon begins her road to self-discovery where she starts to do small things for herself for the first time in her life: like doing up her little apartment, and getting in touch with her school friends and meeting them to find out how life has shaped up for everyone since the time they graduated.

This is an ensemble cast that’s absolutely crack. Every single character comes to life with all their flaws — lovable or otherwise. The screenplay is so inclusive that you feel you are part of the family the whole time. Excellent cinematography where Tbilisi plays centrestage to a deluge of emotions instead of being a showcase of touristy stuff.

The main thread in My Happy Family is possibly a marriage that’s come apart; there’s no hint of abuse or anything violent, just a distancing that Manana and Soso have started living out. One reason for Manana’s moving out is obviously for her to understand — and come to terms with the fact — that her relationship is probably either over or in need of dire repair work. In a way, My Happy Family is also an unconventional love story.

sushmita@khaleejtimes.com


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