Movies/Entertainment,  Off the Shelf

Film Community Potluck Series: ‘Terribly Happy’

Castor and Red at Anomalous Material have come up with an idea that is so brilliant and yet simple that I wish I had thought of it:) Taking the “book club” model and turning it into a “Netflix Recommendation Series”, all participants suggest a film then a Potluck drawing decides who watches what. A week later we reconvene to share our findings. See, told you it was simple. So for now my reviews of this week’s Potluck (FYI this series will be lumped into to my Off the Shelf Reviews thought these will be shorter).

Set in Denmark, Copenhagen cop Robert (Jakob Cedergren) winds up in the remote and derelict town of Skarrild. It is a slow-boil film that, based solely on the narrative in the opening sequence, is anything but straight forward. Robert has been stationed as the lone Marshall in Skarrild while recovering from a recent scandalous incident. With time he hopes to return to the city and his family.

Not long after arriving Robert makes it clear he is anxious to leave but for some reason his family isn’t eager to have him come home. Skarrlid is an eerie town to say the least with residents who seem bound for purgatory, if they don’t already have one foot in the door. Here in nowheresville Denmark Robert, at first, seems like a fish out of water. Yet as the story progresses we find that he’s quite suited to be here. Robert is seen in the beginning to dump his prescription pills and it’s a sure sign that what will follow is never going to be black and white. So with a straightforward and ho-him start, Terribly Happy becomes a film with a David Lynch change of pace, clarity and mood pretty quick.

No one is a saint and that’s probably why they live in the ghostlike town of Skarrlid. Liken this to in structure to a Coen brothers movie (with certain parts of the movie reminiscent of Fargo) if you will. The moodiness abounds and this story goes from bland to bad to quicksand making it almost as uncomfortable for the viewer as it is for Robert. Robert at first is very standoffish. He’s just trying to wait out his assignment, but he inevitably gets involved in the townspeople’s affairs pretty quickly. Making matters worse he gets caught between the town’s most feared resident and his abused wife much to the disapproval of the tight lipped townsfolk.

Basically it’s a Western set in isolated Denmark. As like Woody Harrleson’s character in Palmetto (anybody seen that one?), Robert isn’t a good guy or a bad guy really but he continually makes bad decisions. However, weird as it sounds, you find yourself pulling for him to make it out of his own mess.


To me, Terribly Happy lagged but it certainly picked up in the third act. After the sloth-like pace, a series of tension filled and increasingly pressure driven scenes were a welcoming twist to the story. Further, things got really good just as fast as they got weird. Not that it was a bad thing as it was interesting to see how close Robert came to losing control of things. If you can make it past the “take your time” pace at the start of te film you just may be impressed with the ending. Though it ended pretty damn well, I just didn’t see a point to the story. This was supposedly based on actual events but I guess in a town like Skarrlid where ghostlike residents and “Mojn” (their word for Hello and Good Bye) abound, anything could be seen as interesting.