The Happy Family, directed by Nana Ekvtimisishvili and Simon Groß, is a Georgian Film available on Netflix.
As the name suggests, it is a film with a simple story that brings out the facade of a happy and cheerful family. With brilliant storytelling, the film stars Ia Shughliashvili as Manana, a 50-year-old school teacher who decides to live by her own.
Manana is a woman we all probably know. She could be our mother, aunt, sister, or a reflection of ourselves. She is a woman who is repeatedly told that her destiny is tied to being a good daughter, a loving mother, and a caring wife.
Her immediate family includes an overbearing old mother who supposedly carries the burden of all housework on her shoulders, an aged father who still think about the communist rule (Remember Georgia was part of erstwhile USSR), her husband and two children and a son- in law.
Her moving out of the stuffy family home without any explanation was instead a bold and rather decision. She is dissuaded and cajoled to rethink her choice of moving out from the haven of the family for no apparent reason by her relatives and brother due to family honor. Her brother ultimately takes upon himself to protect her sister from the harsh world much to the disdain of Manana.
In this multi-generational household, her life is mundane, with no space for Manana to even breathe. The only way to gain her sanity and to seek herself was to move out. She manages to rent a small apartment to seek refuge from the repetitive life. She chooses to untie the bonds of her destiny to seek affirmation of herself. She refuses to resign to her fate and steps out of the family universe. It was a sign of a silent revolt that her family refuses to accept.
She didn’t abandon being a mother, wife, or a daughter, but at the same time, she didn’t want to abandon herself.
Marriage is always a more lucrative and beneficial proposition for men than women. A woman always has to make more sacrifices as she has to take the burden of collective interest rather than individual happiness. Manana refuses to continue with the facade without giving an explanation and without seeking one.
Through a series of flashbacks, we get to know why she chooses to step out. But nowhere in the movie, she directly confronts her husband of his infidelity or directly questions the system. Nor she wept herself to death alone in her small apartment. Not for a moment she felt guilty and went on with her day to day life. She grew tomatoes, she played guitar and ate cake when it was time for having dinner.
In the last scene, she asks her husband the most dreaded question about how he lived his whole life. The movie ends there.
Now, it is up to to the viewer to imagine what might her husband have responded. Or if he responds at all?