Attending the premiere of a Georgian film at a film festival abroad is a very exciting and unforgettable event, especially if this premiere turns out to be successful. Fortunately, I have experienced such facts many times. Two such premieres are related to film directors – Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross. So it was in 2013, at the Berlinale, when the first screening of the film "Long Bright Days" was followed by a film award and many international film festivals with corresponding prizes, and the second premiere took place in 2017, again at the Berlin International Film Festival, with the film "My Happy Family." After the performance, when almost the entire cast of this "Georgian family" came on stage, there was tearful joy and ovation.
The next day, the German press (by Matt Fagerholm) wrote: "Long Bright Days" very quickly became one of my favorite films, and as for the film "My Happy Family," it is as captivating and as skillfully performed as Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross's first joint work. During the Sundance Film Festival, film journalist Bila Ebir said about “My Happy Family:” “This is a film about commitment and what was to be done and what yet can be done. The directors are Nana Ekvtimishvili and Simon Gross, for whom this is not the first joint work. A couple of years ago, audiences saw their excellent film about the teens’ life “Long Bright Days,” and their latest work, “My Happy Family,” is not only the best film at the Sundance Film Festival, but one of the best of the year."
Among the many prizes won by “My Happy Family” there are the Central and Eastern European Film Festival Prize for Best Director and the Fipresci Prize; Wiesbaden Film Festival Prize for Best Director; Grand Prix of the Hong Kong Festival "Fire Bird;" the main prize of the Transylvania Festival "Transylvania Cup" and the prize for the best role went to Ia Shugliashvili. It should be mentioned here that the first important role in the film career of this actress in "My Happy Family" was successful not only with prizes, but also with the beginning of a new stage in her work.
In the film, during the lesson, the teacher Manana (Ia Shugliashvili) talks about "Shushanik’s Martyrdom." The question is asked: "Is Shushanik's story a family drama?" Even such an opinion has the right to exist. This proves once again that time is powerless with family problems, it will always exist and will always be individual. The name of the film is also without a question mark, although both it and the opposite meaning are easy to guess.
From the first episodes of the film, we learn that a woman with a family rents an apartment and plans to live alone. She is told that this apartment brings lucky, but it soon becomes clear that the previous occupant committed suicide. It is in this apartment that the 52-year-old teacher of Georgian language and literature, Manana Mkheidze, will reside, leaving behind her family: husband, adult son and daughter, mother and father. Manana's action is incomprehensible to them and to the relatives who gathered immediately, and the general verdict is: "She discredits her family!"
Silence has been Manana's constant state for years. A woman accustomed to everyone and everything leaves her family and goes to start a new life. She has to live and do what she wants, and this is a betrayal to her family, a shameful situation and "what will people say?" The mother (Berta Khapava) is not surprised by her daughter's decision, she compares her moodiness to that of her father’s (Goven Cheishvili): "I couldn't understand what she wanted, what she was happy about, what she was sad about!" But Manana simply didn't have time, nobody was interested in her emotions, now even her husband can't understand why Manana is not in the mood of celebration, but she wants to spend her birthday in her own way, not the way his husband wants. Hundreds of women live like Manana but at a mature age she had the courage to change her life. Ia Shugliashvili's character does not need words, she is discussed and argued, but she moves to action. Like many others, she should also answer the question: how did you live? Obedience accumulated over the years, sorrow was not enough. Manana accidentally learns (at a classmates’ reunion) that she has been living in a lie, that her understanding, handsome husband is unfaithful, that he has a son with another woman. This new pain made her even stronger, convinced her of her right choice. The authors of the film do not try to portray Manana's husband as a traditional womanizer or a traitor who lives at his wife’s expense with her parents. Despite his betrayal, Soso (Merab Ninidze) evokes Manana’s sympathy. He is also lost and only after his wife’s departure does he realize the main thing: "You are my home!" His wife asks him the same question, to which he tries to answer: "How did you live and who are you?" The other characters of the film have to answer this question as well. Most of them are young people: Manana's daughter and son, pregnant daughter-in-law, student who could not get along with her husband and divorced him. The authors of the film again reject traditional clichés and show us how purposeful, bold and uncompromising young people are next to the older generation.
The simple film language forces viewers to concentrate on the main character’s action, whose mood changes radically after moving to a rented apartment: she often eats a piece of cake as if to overcome past sorrows, smiles while reading students' notebooks, plays the guitar with pleasure and sings.
It is symbolic that the film's credits are followed by a song performed not by the actors (Ia Shugliashvili, Merab Ninidze) but by "Manana" and "Soso," the audience should think so! The feeling of freedom makes a person happy!