Filmmaker Chris King’s Happiness gives us a glimpse at a particularly memorable day in the life of a depressed office worker. Known only as “Her” (Sierra Hersek) in the credits, our guide through cubicle Hell is caught up in the machine, but she’s not happy about it. Or, she’s just not happy period. It’s hard to tell precisely what is bothering her, but the clucking and cackling of office minutia isn’t helping.
Only one person seems to notice her state, “Him” (Brian Rife). He’s on his final day in the office, but he reaches out to Her. The small effort having consequences we can’t even fathom until the end credits roll.
Happiness is an immersion into the life and suffering of Her, without pointing out specific reasons for her depression. Instead, we see Her go through her day, and experience it as she does. The feelings come through the screen, and it’s hard not to want to scream or cry alongside with Her as the activities surrounding do their damage. If you’ve never had a panic attack, but want a rough approximation of what it could feel like, there are moments in this film that can shed some light on it for you.
Which is a credit not just to the acting, but also the technical tricks at work to create the oppressive office environment. The filmmakers truly use the best of their toolbox, in the edit and in the sound mixing, particularly, to craft something distinctive and powerful. It’s so well done that I question if, in sequences where imagery with a blue hue is edited next to ones with a more sunlight flavor, if it is on purpose, or maybe a sequence or two in need of color correction. I’d have to re-watch to see if the changes in the color palette match up with Her’s mood swings, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they did; the film is crafted that well.
In the end, Happiness is a strong film, though not an easy one to experience emotionally. Again, it does such a good job of putting you in Her’s state of anxiety and depression, it’s hard to not feel it. And that’s not always a feeling I want to go through, but credit must be given to the film for creating that experience in me.
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