Happy Ever Afters

Happy Ever Afters

DIR/WRI: Stephen Burke • PRO: Lesley McKimm, Alex Ward • DOP: Jonathan Kovel • ED: Guido Krajewski • CAST: Sally Hawkins, Tom Riley, Sinead Maguire, Jade Yourell, Ariyon Bakare

Recipe for a Screwball Comedy:

Take one anti-heroic male who is under the thumb of a dominating fiancée.

Submit him to ritualistic humiliation in a series of zany events.

Allow the male to become involved in a woman-dominated courtship, during which, as the two are drawn to each other, they do not simply surrender to their feelings, they literally battle it out – usually to the physical detriment of the man.

Liberally sprinkle with eccentric characters.

Place all ingredients in the oven and wait as the free-spirited female liberates the victimized feckless male.

After an hour and a half, take out from the oven and let stand.

Garnish with the triumph of love.

Happy Ever Afters takes that 30’s Hollywood screwball formula and gives it a modern-day, Irish context. The ‘Afters’ of the title refers to a double-booked wedding reception at a hotel. One wedding involves our anti-hero Freddie (Tom Riley), marrying his divorced wife again in an effort to make it work. The other involves our free spirit Maura (Sally Hawkins), who is marrying for money. Through a series of madcap events the two find what they are really looking for in each other.

Written and directed by Stephen Burke, Happy Ever Afters proves itself to be quite an enjoyable attempt to bring to the screen the comic (and tragic) potential that exists at most wedding receptions. Indeed, many are ‘traumedies’ waiting to happen. Burke knows his screwball and he packs in a decent amount of visual and verbal gags to maintain a good pace. Riley and Hawkins play out the dysfunctional comic courtship well and are helped along by the oddball collection of friends and family. The voice of reason throughout all the mayhem is Maura’s 8-year-old daughter, Molly (Sinead Maguire), who ends up saving the day. Maguire puts in her own terrific comic performance amidst all the irrationality and surely has a great future in front of her.

Taken at face value, Happy Ever Afters has a lot going for it, not least the two lead performances. Screwball comedies often lack any real substance as the focus is laid on quickly developed and contrived situations and quirky one-dimensional personalities to the detriment of characterization and plot. Happy Ever Afters is no exception. A major flaw with the film is the woeful underwriting of Maura’s situation with husband-to-be Wilson (Ariyon Bakare), who has promised Maura  €9,000 to marry him so that he can avoid being deported. Wilson’s girlfriend Emily (Phina Oruche) is at the wedding and it’s a shame Burke didn’t develop this particular triangle. Certain scenes could easily have been ditched and Oruche’s character should have been developed into a more central character, which would have offered the narrative much more comic scope.

Still, Burke has followed the screwball recipe well and promises to be a decent chef in the future.

Steven Galvin

Rated 12a (see IFCO website for details)

Happy Ever Afters is released 25th Dec 2009

Happy Ever Afters – Official Website


13 Replies to “Happy Ever Afters”

  1. This wasn’t a “great” film however some of the characters were brilliant especially Molly (sinead maguire) she is a fantastic little actress and hopefully we’ll be seeing a lot more of her in the future 🙂 At the end of the day it is an IRISH film an we should be proud of it!!!

  2. this film was great me best friend sinead maguire played molly and im very proud of her shes amazing…… so keep ur nasty comments to urself

  3. I really did enjoy this film. It is in my opinion as good as those from hollywood. I saw it today and personally I think it is very funny and the story line is very good (it is actually better than it sounds) and the acting is great

  4. You can’t always believe what you read in the papers can you?

    The best thing to do is go and see it for yourself and make up your own mind as to how good it is. I think it’s not always the best thing to do when people hang on the reviews of so called critics. Critics are people just like anyone else, and everyones tastes differ.

    Personally I think it is an excellent film and believe that this shows that Ireland has got some very good tallent of which they can be proud.

  5. Unfortunately I did pay to see the movie and made up my own mind. What Hollywood screwball movies is it as good as Dave?

  6. I saw this film in December and fortunately for me it was free for me and my daughter has it was a premiere. The scew ball comedies I have watched featuring Spencer Tracey, Kathrine Hepburn, Gary Grant were absoultey class, fast paced and will still stand up even in 2010 – I can’t say the same for Happy Ever After. The script was lacking and decent actors were under used! Poor man’s Four Weddings & A Funeral!

  7. All those classic Hollywood screwball comedies had one thing in common: a couple spilts up but by the end of the movie they get back together – which is what the audience wants. With Happy Ever Afters this didn’t happen and the audience didn’t care. A simple but major flaw.

  8. Ya, i was really anticipating some fresh Irish comedy this year…i saw this film coming home on the plane and i was utterly dissapointed. It used every Irish cliché in the book..and failed miserably on all accounts.
    This Embarrasingly poor rip off of “4 weddings” is probably the worst Irish film Ive seen in years.
    I hope we can all learn something from this terrible mistake.


  9. As far as Screwball Comedies this is right up there for me. For those reviewers who didn’t get it, it might help to know that your body has to be in a place where it’s open to being tickled. If you “think” your way through, this movie won’t make any sense. You have to feel the tension between – and within the characters – then the antics portrayed release that pent-up into an orgasmic pleasure. I rate it right up there along with Trains, Planes and Automobiles.

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