H is for Happiness. Picture: David Dare Parker
H is for Happiness. Picture: David Dare Parker

MOVIE REVIEW: H is for Happiness? A is for average

A hyper-whimsical Australian family film, H is for Happiness cannot be faulted for picking up a considerable number of ideas, and simply running with them.

However, as so often the case when a first-time director is at the helm, the movie takes on too heavy a load of concepts, themes and issues.

Unfortunately, this leaves an otherwise pleasing affair prone to erratic shifts in tone and mood which can make it difficult for viewers to remain engaged throughout.

Richard Roxburgh and Emma Booth star as the parents in this family tale.
Richard Roxburgh and Emma Booth star as the parents in this family tale.

An attractively stylised (almost colour-coded) production is set in the West Australian town of Albany, where precocious 12-year-old Candice Phee (Daisy Axon) is doing everything she can to repair a malfunctioning family unit.

A tragedy in the past has seen her mum (Emma Booth) retreat to her bedroom, and her dad (Richard Roxburgh) disappear inside his work.

Some semblance of domestic harmony - let alone any faint sign of affection - would be enough to start with for Candice. As a gifted student with an extensive vocabulary, she is all but ostracised by her peers.

The arrival of a potential new best friend, Douglas (Wesley Patten), could be the catalyst for change that Candice has been looking for. But why does he keep telling her he hails from another dimension?

A less is more approach might have been a better way to go in H Is For Happiness.
A less is more approach might have been a better way to go in H Is For Happiness.

Some nice work does continually surface during H is for Happiness, but so too do its niggling inconsistencies. A less-is-more approach might have been the better way to go.

A reduction in workload for the young leads Axon and Patten certainly would have been in order, as neither rookie really has the dramatic range at this early stage of their careers to carry so much of a feature film.

Adapted from author Barry Jonsberg's award-winning YA novel My Life as an Alphabet.

 

H IS FOR HAPPINESS (PG)

Director: John Sheedy (feature debut)

Starring: Daisy Axon, Wesley Patten, Richard Roxburgh, Emma Booth.

Rating: **1/2

A is for Average