Martin Keaveney finds Germans in Kerry keeping it real in Happy Hour, which screened at this year’s Galway Film Fleadh.
Franz Müller’s Happy Hour is a German-Irish film depicting the antics of three men nearing fifty who leave their homes in Germany for a holiday in Co. Kerry. Wolfgang, HC and Nic have distinct personalities with enough underlying similarities to bring their adventure to life on screen.
Wolfgang owns the holiday home and is the natural leader. HC is quieter and appears at the outset to be in some form of emotional strife. The younger looking Nic seems carefree and good-humoured. The movie opens with the three skating across an ice rink, and this pursuit foreshadows a youthful philosophy which underpins the rest of the film. Their time in Kerry will be spent partying, picking up women and testing the limits of their friendships.
The chief sub-plot is a well-constructed, although fairly traditional love triangle. Other narrative threads are low key, but do serve to give some depth to the secondary characters. The narrative plays out mainly in German, with some short scenes in English. There is a strong possibility much of the script’s dialogue is lost through the translation and as a consequence, some scenes which appear to have all the ingredients for intelligent drama fall flat.
We never get clear exposition on the men’s backgrounds. The main clues are HC’s depressive persona, Wolfgang’s reluctance toward sex and Nic’s play-making. The film treats the cross-cultural issues of holiday homes, mid-life interactions of both love and friendship and invites reflection on both common ground and differences between Ireland and Germany.
There are aspects of The Three Stooges, yet the comic intensity is often diluted with philosophical meanderings, at one stage the group question their existence on Earth. The director does admirably resist melodrama, the initially flamboyant Wolfgang puzzles new girlfriend Kat with his conservative attitude in the bedroom. The consequences of this situation is the key moment in the film, evoking themes of change and growth. HC is the most realistic creation; self-piteous, bitterly comic and unpredictable. Realism is the best aspect of the production, it verges on documentary style at times, appropriate for many of its concerns.
There is a sensible avoidance of panoramic sweeps of lakes and mountains, as so often appear in Irish-Foreign collaborations. The appeal of the lifestyle is instead reflected upon. Even so, the result is still the stereotypical late-night drinking sessions of depressed quasi-bachelors, deep in loud, dark pubs.
For a limited scope, Happy Hour achieves its goals. While characters are still frustratingly underdeveloped, a decent attempt is made to explore the three men and to an extent, the women they encounter. The realism of the material is superbly drawn and the dynamics of the characters really come to life after the key point in the film.
The subject is probably not a mainstream one and Happy Hour is not likely to reach a wide audience. Those that do find it will be entertained by a piece which comes together well.
Happy Hour screened on Friday, 10th July as part of the Galway Film Fleadh (7 – 12 July 2015)
Martin Keaveney co-wrote the feature film Cattle Raid, currently in post-production. Recent fiction has appeared in The Crazy Oik, Gold Dust and Agave Magazine. He has a B.A. in English and Italian and an M.A. in English (Writing) from NUI, Galway, Ireland. He is currently a PhD candidate at NUIG where he is researching the John McGahern archive and also writing a novel as part of the course.