"Happy Christmas" is a dysfunctional family drama rendered in a deceptively minor key, with the improvisational inclinations of erstwhile mumblecore icon Joe Swanberg and a strong performance from lead Anna Kendrick giving the picture its heft.

Kendrick plays Jenny, who, after a bad breakup, moves in with her brother (Joe Swanberg), his wife (Melanie Lynskey) and their adorable baby (Jude Swanberg).

She's trouble and troubled, living an aimless, pot-heavy existence that promises conflict and difficulties as her inertia grows.

There are no big dramatic centerpieces here, just a series of relatable human moments that collectively present a naturalistic portrait of familial bonds being tested.

The actors are likable and smart, imbuing the movie with tension derived from real-life experiences. They make us care about these people and become invested in their collective plight.


Happy Christmas | Directed by Joe Swanberg | Starring Anna Kendrick, Melanie Lynskey, Joe Swanberg, Lena Dunham | Rated R | Playing at Sunshine and on VOD