Today’s movie is a documentary about happiness that’s been in my Netfilx queue for quite a while now. Like many people I’m generally not at my cheeriest on Mondays, so I finally sat down to watch Happy in the hope it might provide a bright start to the week. No such luck.
This 2011 documentary from director Roko Belic aims to explore the fundamental emotion of happiness and how we achieve it. The problem with the film is that as it comes together it’s really not about searching for happiness, but rather more of a lecture. The film doesn’t seem to know if it wants to be a traditional documentary, or a self-help film, or propaganda.
There’s some interesting materiel in the film, and many of the “happy” people that serve as subjects really do seem interesting. As does the (brief) segments on the science of happiness. Unfortunately the longer the film goes along, the more it seems to be advocating for a specific definition of happiness, to be achieved as some sort of social utopia.
Maybe the problem is that the film tries to awkwardly navigate between actual stories of “happy” people in a variety of “unexpected” circumstances, and the nascent field of happiness science. I suspect that any film that tried to tackle such a fundamental aspect of human existence into the span of a single feature film would probably run into similar problems.
At the end of the day, I did learn a thing or two from this film, but I wasn’t particularly entertained, I certainly don’t feel any happier now than I did when I started watching the film. If Belic’s goal was to make a film that would guilt his viewers into trying to become happier by becoming “better” people, then I’d suppose he succeeded, because that’s how it comes off. I wouldn’t say that Happy is a bad movie, but it fails to be sufficiently informative to work as an educational movie, and it’s far too much of a lecture to work as entertainment. So, while it’s not bad, per se, it’s not worth seeing either.