Monday, September 14, 2020

Family trauma meets feel-good: John Sheedy/ Lisa Hoppe's adaptation, H IS FOR HAPPINESS

Stick with this recent Australian movie, please, despite its initial unsure footing. H IS FOR HAPPINESS -- directed by newcomer-to-film theater director John Sheedy (shown below) with a screenplay by Lisa Hoppe from the popular young-adult novel My Life as an Alphabet by Barry Jonsberg -- combines family dysfunction with feel-good filmmaking in a manner that (finally, at least) manages to come together quite beautifully. Initially, if it appears a somewhat uneasy mix of coming-of-age, family tragedy, pretty scenery, humor and even maybe a little mysticism, do hold on. 

Once our heroine Candice (newcomer Daisy Axon, on poster above), about to celebrate her 13th birthday and waiting for impatiently for breast development, tells us: "Waiting for progress in the chest department is like watching grass grow," we listen with a knowing smile.

Then, when Candice receives a very special birthday present from a certain important new friend, the film kicks into action and simply gets better and better with each succeeding scene until its joyous, surprising and delightful climax -- which proves to be just about everything you want (but so seldom get) from most feel-good finales.

The plot of the film has to do with a family fractured from a death and a possible financial betrayal by a sibling, all of which Candice is now trying to repair. When an unusual new boy enters her classroom (Wesley Patten, also on poster, top) and confides to Candice that he is from "another dimension," our heroine is hooked.

The movie's large and talented cast includes some of Australia's finest -- from Richard Roxburgh as dad (above, right), Emma Booth as mom (above, left), and Miriam Margolyes as Candice's wandering-eyed schoolteacher (below). Young Ms Axon and Mr. Patten could hardly be better, both bringing a genuine sweetness and innocence to the proceedings.

The ins and outs of the plotting include a seemingly mystical pony (three photos up), the proprietor of a local costume shop (George Shevtsov, below, right), and even a little quantum mechanics. It all comes together nicely though, with that special birthday gift popping up again and again, each time funnier and even more appropriate than the one before.

From Samuel Goldwyn Films and running a just-about-right 96 minutes, H Is for Happiness will make its American debut via VOD and digital streaming this Friday, September 18 -- for purchase and/or rental. 

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