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SEVILLE 2018 Special Screenings

Review: Happy Sad

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- After a decade away, producer Ibon Cormenzana has returned to the director’s chair with a drama about the need to express one’s feelings, starring Roberto Álamo

Review: Happy Sad
Roberto Álamo and Claudia Placer in Happy Sad

World-premiered as a special screening at the 15th Seville European Film FestivalHappy Sad [+see also:
trailer
film profile
]
 marks Ibon Cormenzana’s (Bilbao, 1972) return to directing after an 11-year hiatus. Cormenzana is better known for his work as the daring and award-festooned producer behind Pablo Berger’s films, such as Blancanieves [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Pablo Berger
film profile
]
 and Abracadabra [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Pablo Berger
film profile
]
, among many others, but his career also includes two previous directorial outings: the psychological drama Jaizkibel (2001), which won awards at festivals such as Cairo and Cartagena; and the children’s fantasy film The Totenwackers, which was shown at Sitges in 2007.

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Starring Roberto Álamo (who won a Goya two years ago for May God Save Us [+see also:
film review
trailer
interview: Rodrigo Sorogoyen
film profile
]
), Manuela VellésPedro CasablancCarlos BardemAndrés GertrúdixMaggie Civantos and young actress Claudia PlacerHappy Sad – which picks up the same preoccupation with psychological problems and the major presence of children found in Cormenzana’s first two movies – was shot under a working title that included two additional basic emotions: fear and anger. Now it is hitting screens with only the first two in its name, perhaps because incorporating all four would have been too hard-hitting for it to be marketed effectively, according to the director. Even so, this whole quartet of emotions is covered in his movie, the main character in which is a fireman who has suffered a trauma so shocking that he can neither express his emotions nor identify those of other people.

In order to translate this conflict into a moving story, Cormenzana trusted in the talent of his actors, who are not always totally successful in scenes that demand performances combining believability and drama, while avoiding heavy-handedness. At certain points they do manage it, and the pent-up emotions of the lead character are also successfully kept in check by the director and co-screenwriter (the script was penned by the director and Jordi Vallejo, the co-writer of The Pact [+see also:
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trailer
interview: David Victori
film profile
]
). In fact, they are only allowed to gush forth – aided by Lucas Vidal’s (Nobody Wants the Night [+see also:
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trailer
making of
interview: Isabel Coixet
film profile
]
) soundtrack – in the third act.

In the meantime, viewers will witness the unfolding of a family drama, roam the corridors of a psychiatric hospital, and empathise with a doctor who puts her faith in being sensitive and using an affectionate approach, rather than resorting to cruel and outdated shock therapies. But the audience will also amass a few doubts about the denouement, which demands a great deal of clarity – even more so given that it deals with issues as delicate as these. This is a film that could have flown so much higher and gone so much further in its commitment to defend living life to the fullest, free of restrictive buttresses.

Happy Sad, which was shot in Madrid and Navarra, is a production by Spanish outfits Arcadia Motion Pictures and Samarcanda Films AIE, in association with Noodles Productions (France), and with the involvement of Movistar + and Televisió de Catalunya (TVC)Filmax sells it abroad, and Alfa Pictures and Rakuten Cinema are set to distribute it in Spanish theatres on 16 November. Rakuten TV will also include it in its programming schedule 60 days after its theatrical release.

(Translated from Spanish)

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