‘Those Happy Years’ Movie Review

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Those Happy Years
Written by Daniele Luchetti, Sandro Petraglia, Stefano Rulli and Caterina Venturini
Directed by Daniele Luchetti
Italy/France, 2013

In 2007, Daniele Luchetti garnered international attention with My Brother Is an Only Child, a nostalgic look at a pair of brothers in 1960s and 1970s Italy who find themselves on opposite sides of the political spectrum but loving the same woman. With Those Happy Years, Luchetti returns to the past once more, this time looking at family dynamics with the backdrop of art rather than politics.

The film tells the story of artist and art teacher Guido (Kim Rossi Stuart), who is struggling both to gain the notoriety as an artist that he seeks and to provide for his wife Serena (Micaela Ramazzotti) and children Dario (Samuel Garofalo) and Paolo (Niccolo Calvagna). Serena, on the other hand, cares little for art and instead just wants Guido to turn his attention to her. When a failed art installation causes Guido to further withdraw from his family, Serena takes the children on a feminist retreat to a beach in France. Though at first reticent to let herself go, she enjoys the summer there immensely and learns more about herself than she thought she would. Narrated by an adult Dario, the film takes a close look at family dynamics and the things that matter to us most.

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Those Happy Years might lack some of the substance of My Brother Is an Only Child but it clearly comes from a very personal place, with Dario being an obvious stand-in for Luchetti himself; assuch, it rings true. Those Happy Years benefits especially from great performances from all members of the family (Garofalo and Calvagna are quite fun to watch as Guido and Serena’s precocious sons) and from Martina Gedeck as the family’s friend Helke, who becomes entangled in Guido and Serena’s relationship when she invites the latter to France.

Those Happy Years functions well when it’s aware that, in many ways, it’s a bit of a fairy tale, as seen through the eyes of Dario. As he narrates that decisive summer in the development of his family, the adult Dario comes to understand that he may be looking at this time in their lives with rose-tinted glasses. Most children whose parents are separated fantasize about happy times together as a family; Those Happy Years very much feels like such a fantasy, but with the added sobering wisdom that comes with growing up and understanding our parents as we become adults ourselves. In the end, this film is a fantasy well worth indulging.

– Laura Holtebrinck

The Toronto International Film Festival runs from September 5th to 15th, 2013. For a complete schedule of films, screening times, and ticket information, please visit the official site.

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