Sophie Barthes’ “Happiness” focuses on an older Eastern European woman named Iwona who works as a product tester in a condom factory. It isn’t a very compelling job (either the rubber stays solid or it leaks) and Iwona wears an expression of perpetual gloom during her duties.
One evening during her commute home, she stops at a weird little store and buys a box marked “Happiness” (or so we are told – the box is marked with Cyrllic lettering). Iwona is not able to examine the contents in the store, but when she gets it home she eyes it suspiciously. Will she or won’t she open the Happiness box?
If the film doesn’t quite achieve a satisfactory conclusion for its guessing game efforts, it at least offers a handsome production (particularly Andrij Parekh’s crisp cinematography) and a wonderfully enigmatic performance from Elzbieta Czyzweska as Iwona. The actress, a veteran of the Polish cinema who was supposedly the inspiration for the 1987 Sally Kirkland movie “Anna,” achieves a brilliant star turn with very little dialogue and a seemingly emotionless stare. She is an extraordinary presence and hopefully either Barthes or another filmmaker will find the appropriate vehicle to put her unique talent to good use.