SURELY, we all know by now that the 'perfect family' is an artificial social construct.
Those '50s and '60s kitschy ad campaigns - featuring floral apron-dressed lasses heroically playing the good wife with oven-cooked roasts and jam-and-cream sponge cakes - perpetuated domesticity as 'la dolce vita'.
Add a loving husband, two children (goodness knows how one offspring - or heaven forbid, none - was perceived), a dog, cat and station wagon proudly parked in the driveway, and voila, you had your 'perfect family'.
The traditional family unit has been turned on its head many a time by irreverent comic filmmakers, but Norwegian director Anne Sewitsky's Happy Happy (Sykt Iykkelig) is by far the best treatment given in quite some time.
Set in the dead of winter, it centres on Kaja (Agnes Kittelsen), a naïve, bored housewife whose husband Eirik (Joachim Rafaelsen) avoids having sex with her (preferring to watch wrestling and go hunting…alarm bells, anyone?).
She eagerly awaits the arrival next door of Sigve (Henrik Rafaelsen) and Elisabeth (Maibritt Saerens), an apparent perfect family - with an adopted child from Ethiopia - and invites them over for dinner.
But after a game of 'How Well Do You Know Your Partner', long-held sexual frustrations surface and a comedy of errors ensues - Kaja and Sigve partake in naughty pleasures (even frolicking in the snow naked in full view of Kaja and Eirik's son) while Eirik takes a liking to Sigve (oh dear).
It's an uproarious romp with spot-on delivery of the abundant supply of priceless comic one-liners and awkwardly funny and dramatic scenarios, punctuated with quirky interludes featuring a Christmas choral group.
And the best part: in spite of all the familial dysfunction, there is a happy ending, serving as a reminder to all of us this festive season to embrace our own imperfect families.
HAPPY Happy (M)
Directed by: Anne Sewitsky
Starring: Agnes Kittelsen, Joachim Rafaelsen
Rating: Four-and-a-half stars
Screening: Somerville, UWA, until December 11 as part of Lotterywest Festival Films. Visit perthfestival.com.au
Reviewed by: Emilia Vranjes