SLAMDANCE FILM FESTIVAL 2022 REVIEW! Hannah (Hannah Lee Thompson) works a number of odd jobs to support her aging father (Avram Tetewsky). As her 26th birthday approaches, her overbearing brother, Paul (Roger Mancusi), reprimands her for an apparent lack of motivation and responsibility. Paul’s corporate nature and Hannah’s folksy lifestyle contrast in a subtle battle of wills in co-writers/co-directors Jordan Tetewsky and Joshua Pikovsky’s Hannah Ha Ha.
Paul’s lifestyle manifests in his many lectures to Hannah on her potential and unrealized zeal to succeed in life. Constant pressure from her brother leads Hannah to leave her beloved job on a local farm to pursue a “real job” with the possibility of health care. Several rejections further cement Hannah’s feelings of inadequacy and budding resentment of her own life.
The relationship between Hannah and Paul is at the heart of the film. Thompson embodies all the elusive insecurities of Hannah, while Mancusi captures the raw ambition and condescending nature of Paul with gusto. Each scene between the two is like a fencing match between Hannah’s fear of rejection and Paul’s mock sincerity. The filmmakers make each slight, each small jab, feel like a tidal wave of disappointment. The siblings’ relationship is an excellent example of clean character creation and allows us to insert ourselves into Hannah’s struggle for self-actualization.
“Paul’s lifestyle manifests in his many lectures to Hannah on her potential and unrealized zeal…”
Hannah Ha Ha is an intriguing relationship study between Hannah and Paul. Their dynamic is the cornerstone of the story, crafting a slow but purposeful film with a strong sense of character development. Viewing the film, you cannot help but empathize with Hannah during her silent smoke breaks and her begrudging desire to please her brother. Like the rest of the picture, the climax is without finesse or flash. Instead, the end strikes at the core of Hannah as a character.
Tetewsky and Pikovsky give you a lot to like, but I’m not sure they give you enough to love. Paul’s corporate Silicon Valley vibe contrasts vividly with Hannah’s small-town aesthetic. The film creates vibrant characters yet misses an opportunity to explore the relationship between Hannah and her father – let alone how her experience caring for her father has shaped Hannah as a person. There is a compelling story to be told here, especially exploring the dynamics of the family, but, at times, its quiet and subtle nature prevents this drama from building a more enriched narrative.
The film has a lot of exceptional moments between siblings. I just wish the bond between Hannah and her father was half as intriguing. Despite its uneven moments, Hannah Ha Ha is a sweet film with enough complexity to merit at least one watch.
Hannah Ha Ha screened at the 2022 Slamdance Film Festival.
"…a sweet film..."