Happy Hour is 317 minutes long. Take that in.
5 hours and 17 minutes long.
You might well ask whether I chose to watch Happy Hour simply so I could brag about the long runtime and you would be right. Thankfully the bum numbing duration of the film yielded a delightful drama filled with well-rounded female characters, artful direction, and a message that we all need to communicate better or our lives might lose their balance. At least that’s the insight I managed to glean from the film.
At the heart of the film are four female friends, none of whom having gotten their lives fully sussed yet. Each is dealing with some dissatisfaction in either their home or work lives and living in a society where politeness is key they struggle to share their burdens with one another. After taking a course on alternative communication the four women’s lives slowly shift as they come closer together and drift apart.
Having opened the film, well it was within the first hour, with an extensive amount of time watching the women on their communication workshop the film then spends the remaining four hours subtly paying off what we have learned not just through their actions but through camera angles and direction. Subtlety is the key here as with so much time to play with nothing is ever shoved down the audience’s throat. It is through the slow burn that gradual changes are revealed and by the end you know each character better than they knew themselves at the start.
The majority of the film is filled with dialogue but most of the interactions between characters, especially those not between the core four women, occur only on the surface level as people repress their true feelings. As such there is not only a large number of subtitles to read but a massive amount of subtext to apply too. Maybe it was the amount of time I had to consider the film and its themes but I found this to be one film that was very easy to read and get a great deal of depth from. There’s a great pleasure to be had in nodding to yourself and thinking “I see what you’re doing here”.
Happy Hour mixes laughs with tears and leaves plenty of time for pondering. This is a film about respect, balance, and service and how politeness may well be a barrier to proper communication. If you have got the time to spare I think you’ll find Happy Hour rewarding. If nothing else it passes the Bechdel Test within the first minute and then doesn’t stop. I’m not going to say the time flew by but I certainly wasn’t desperate for the film to end. Touching and thought-provoking Happy Hour is a cinematic marathon.
Happy Hour screens again at the festival on the 19th and 18th of October but is currently sold out.