My Happy Family (Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi) is a Georgian language film from writer and director Nana Ekvtimishvili about a woman who just wants to be left alone by her family. Beware the spoilers.
My Happy Family (Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi) was co-directed by Simon Groß. The team goes by the name Nana and Simon. The film received rave reviews and won awards on the film festival circuit in 2017.
The film stars Ia Shugliashvili as Manana, a literature teacher who is desperate for a little peace and quiet away from her family. Three generations live together in a cramped apartment. There’s no privacy. They all offer constant complaining comments on everything. They all talk at once. No one listens to anyone. Most especially, no one listens to a single thing Manana says about what she does and does not want.
I felt Manana’s need to be alone so profoundly. Every moment of her life away from work was spent in the cacophony of family. They all made demands of her, but none took her needs into consideration.
When Manana announces that she’s rented an apartment and is moving out, leaving her husband and children behind with her parents, the explosion is phenomenal. It’s unheard of. Why is she doing it? Who hurt her? What will people think? How can she live alone?
Does anyone hear her answers? No. She leaves anyway.
Manana moves into her quiet apartment. She cleans it up and arranges her tables and chairs to her liking. She’s on the 4th floor and can sit in her favorite chair facing the tree tops swaying outside the balcony, listening to Mozart, and eating cake for dinner. It’s bliss.
She restrings her guitar and practices old favorite songs. She plants tomatoes on the balcony and makes her own coffee. Her family comes by or calls her to rush home, but she does achieve some space between these demands.
One day she meets a high school friend who sells cheese in the market. She learns there will be a class reunion. She and the old friend go together. When she tells her former classmates she’s left her husband, they unleash a years-old flurry of gossip that hurts her very much. While she’s close to tears from what she’s learned, they put a guitar in her hands and insist she sing. She gets through a song, barely, and rushes away.
Manana loves her family. It’s obvious. But she needs to be given the respect and quiet of privacy, too. Her leaving creates tension but it also creates a sense of freedom. I love Manana for having the strength to overcome all the rules of Georgian society to do this bold thing.
All the people left behind have to reconsider their own place in the family. Particularly Soso. He feels out of place living with Manana’s parents without her. Manana’s brother can’t stop interfering in her life, her daughter keeps coming her to for advice and support. At least she can retreat from all that, close her new apartment door, and revel in the quiet.
My Happy Family (Chemi Bednieri Ojakhi) is available on Netflix. I couldn’t find a suitably subtitled trailer on YouTube to share here, but there is a good trailer on Netflix.