Film Review: Girls Always Happy | Rou qing shi (2018); Director: Yang Mingming.

Girls Always Happy

All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Girls Always Happy Press Still. World Cinema Amsterdam festival 2018.

Rating: ⭐⭐⭐ – 3/5.

Author: Feargal Agard | Runtime: 118 min. | Director: Yang Mingming | Year: 2018.

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Incredibly intimate and yet astonishingly full of arguing. Girls Always Happy | Rou qing shi (2018) is the story of a mother and her daughter who endure because of their super close relationship happy times mixed with a lot of arguing that stems from their fears and desperations.

Girls Always Happy takes place in the picturesque but stifling hutongs (alleyways with traditional courtyard residences) of old Beijing. The main character Wu (Yang Mingming) who is in her mid-twenties, lives with her single mother (Nai An) in one of the hutong houses. They are both writers. Her mother is rather steeped in poetry and book writing whereas Wu graduating in filmmaking and is occupied with screenwriting next to other writing works. The only thing is that they both haven’t been successful in bringing out their works and manuscripts. Mother and daughter are both very close, but also constantly arguing, squabbling, manipulating and sometimes they even threaten each other. Some of their arguments pertain to being written into the will of Wu’s grandfather by cleaning his apartment and staying in touch. Besides her mother and grandfather Wu is also dating her divorced boyfriend Zhang (Zhang Xianmin) who seems very patient with her even though Wu comes off pretty wacky and unstable. All the drama and emotional situations in Wu’s life and that of her mothers come to an all-time high when an argument escalates. But they usually always come back together as friends. But will their dreams ever come true? Will, they gain the success that they want for their careers and or gain the financial stability that they so desperately yearn for?

Girls Always Happy was directed, written and edited by Yang Mingming who also happens to perform as the main character. The film was produced by Yang Jing, Sun Hebin, Wang Lei, Li Tao. The film was screened at the Panorama section of the 68th Berlin International Film Festival, but also at the World Cinema Amsterdam Festival 2018. The overt presence of Yang Mingming in the realization of this film is absolutely astonishing. You don’t often see a director in so many other different functions in making a film and what she has achieved is commendable. Genre-wise it is a drama film that thematically discusses intimacy, despair, fragility, and relationships. It’s done in an ironically comedic way because it is often portrayed as funny or humorous, but the expressions used to convey these comedic moments often signify an opposite side to it. Nonetheless, it remains a beautiful sight of a dramatized portrait of actual life that involves two whimsical arguing ladies with big hearts and big dreams. The film also stars Li Qinqin, Huang Wei Yuan Li and Li Wenbo.

The film displays two unique characters and with that, I am not referring to the mother and daughter part, but more to the type of relationship they have and what the persona of the characters represent. ‘Like father, like son’ should be more accurately be referred to as ‘like mother, like daughter. They are so alike and yet they believe that they are so different. The only difference is the age, which might be the reason why Wu’s mother seems more desperate than her daughter who she believes still has much time left to succeed in life. Whereas the mother believes that she might be too old to succeed with her writing and she sometimes even claims that she might die soon even though she is in her forties. Next to fighting, they are very intimate in their own way. You can especially see that when they both enjoy their dinners together, but also at several other occasions where they jump around, enjoying each others company and sometimes they even have blatant fun. Besides that, the film does not feel like a typical three-act structured film where big plot turning points stir the narrative into an unknown world with an ‘enemy’ that needs to be defeated or overcome followed by a climax and resolution. I am not saying that this film has no structure at all. All I am saying is that it feels much more like a portrait moment taken out of life and delightfully displayed before your very eyes.

The film is young and fresh, cinematically poetic, yet simple in its conveyance. Because the film does not show a complex array of cinematography. There are quick snappy shots that create a dramatic and or comedic sense, beautiful shallow focus and rack focusing, cool dolly shots that seem to float whilst easily tracking Wu while she is stepping on the streets. The power of this is that the film becomes even more accessible. It shows an ease that makes it seem like any starting filmmaker could achieve what this film displays. Besides that, the film isn’t an effect, color-corrected or graded workmanship. It’s rather an uncomplicated filmic sequence of attractive soft and detailed images, sometimes light or dark and sometimes gray. Depending on the mood, the weather or the location. All and all I have to say that the shots were pretty, clean, nicely put together with engrossing angles and view perspectives. The editing is smart, quick and effective. Yang Mingming has done a great job at keeping a particular pace in the film. Even though by the end of the film I did feel that we weren’t introduced to new critical developments. To me, that was a point where with editing she could have more swiftly worked towards the end of the film. Last and least, there is an overt diegetic sound present during the film which means that sound can be quite uniform.

Girls Always Happy deserves a star rating of ⭐⭐⭐ – 3/5, because it was made by an intelligent woman and director with a strong sense of filmmaking. I can’t help but feel especially since her 43-minute short film named Female Directors (2012) implies that she focusses on women with perhaps the wish for a bigger presence of woman filmmakers in the filmmaking world. Which I definitely root for. That she comes off as the kind of filmmaker that doesn’t let her be stopped by a small budget or a too expensive crew or cast. I mean she acted, wrote, directed and edited the film which is tremendous. She takes matters into her own hands and she just goes for what she wants to achieve and I love that. In any way, this film is for whoever is in for an endearing adventure of two lively women who through all their arguments and threats, love each other in their own way.

Released as from the 27th of February 2018.

Genre: Drama | Languages: Chinese | Distributor: none yet. Seen at World Cinema Amsterdam festival 2018.

In regard to all pictures and trailer footage. All Rights Reserved to the rightful owners. Girls Always Happy Press Still. World Cinema Amsterdam festival 2018.

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