Cast: Nai An, Zhang Xianmin, Yang Mingming
Golden Firebird Award, FIPRESCI Award, 2018 Hong Kong International Film Festival
Official Selection, 2018 Berlin International Film Festival
Writer-director-actor Yang Mingming’s GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY is the smartest kid in the room with one of the oddest couples in cinema – two aspiring writers entangled in snarling, fragile cohabitation in Beijing’s cramped eavesdropping hutongs. They also happen to be mother and daughter, conspiratorial about their writing, bowel movements, and securing financial injections whether from boyfriends or an elderly father in-law. As romance and career falter, surviving each other becomes the crankier challenge.
In zippy, deadpan style, GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY mixes free-wheeling scooter rides, emotional wranglings, and visual surprises at every turn. A rekindled flame unwraps pillows and sheets… inside a car. Women luxuriously suck-gnaw-spit-gnash over duck bones. A snub from a security guard unexpectedly escalates with breathtaking texture. Wild panning shots rubberneck from high and low, with a camera as curious as a kid in a jungle gym. Through it all, stonefaced Wu (Yang Mingming) and her frustrated mother (Nai An) are unforgettable – erupting as their ambition is hemmed by codependence, and reuniting to plan the next hustle to stay on course.
Yang’s energetic auteurist spirit is a refreshing antidote to Chinese indie malaise, one that laugh-snorts at male narcissism while rewriting the “mother-daughter” film into a sharp, anti-romantic “woman-woman” film. The victory we fervently hope for in GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY, is not true love or harmony, but that these two discordant, singular women get a seat at the artistic table. One thing’s for sure: we will follow Yang Mingming on a scooter wherever she goes.
– Christina Ree
Quirky and irreverent short about a first-time director who turns his one shot at success into a tumultuous film experiment.
Sat Nov 17