Review by Camden Ferrell
H is for Happiness is another one of those movies that try to recapture the optimism and joy of childhood and adolescence. From director John Sheedy, this family dramedy feels familiar but still overwhelms with an abundance of heart.
Candice Phee is a 12-year-old girl living in the small Australian town of Albany. She is a well-read protagonist with an abnormally large vocabulary, surprising emotional maturity, and unbounded optimism. This movie follows her attempt to reconnect her broken family after she makes friends with a new kid at school. This is a coming-of-age film with a fun premise even if it feels like its been done countless times before.
The script, written by Lisa Hoppe, is charming and has some sweet and quirky moments throughout. It tackles the concept of grief and contextualizes it fairly well for the film’s younger audience. Despite how well it addresses complex themes, there are still moments that feel repetitive and derivative, and they can often make the movie drag a bit. Despite this, they wrote the character of Candice in a clever way that makes her a role model of optimism for the impressionable demographic of the film.
The performances in this movie are fairly decent throughout. Daisy Axon leads the film as Candice in what is easily the film’s strongest performance. She portrays the childlike wonder of Candice and blends it very well with the character’s intellectual maturity. Emma Booth gives a performance as Candice’s mom that is quite emotional at times. The film also features another enjoyable performance from Wesley Patten who plays Candice’s new friend.
The film’s use of color is pretty beautiful and consistent throughout. It’s a vibrancy that reflects the spirit of our protagonist, and it gives the film a very upbeat vibe throughout. The film also knows how to manipulate color in its more dramatic and emotional moments without feeling cheap.
The main problem with the film is that all of the characters feel like archetypes that have been overdone. While Candice is an enjoyable character, she is just another take on the abnormally gifted and wise child. This leads to many interactions and storylines feeling predictable and too formulaic.
Despite this flaw, there is still plenty of heart in this film. It will resonate with plenty of families everywhere who may be suffering similar problems. It’s a film that tries to simplify the more nuanced complexities of grief and closure, and this is both a blessing and a curse for the film. It allows the movie to be accessible, but it doesn’t allow the film to truly explore the depth of its themes.
H is for Happiness is a cute and family-friendly film that is sufficiently entertaining. It isn’t anything special, and it is too formulaic throughout. However, it is a visually pleasing film with plenty of heart, soul, and (you guessed it) happiness.
H is for Happiness is available on VOD September 18.