A portrayal of family life, and a sly dig at both the filmmaking process and consumerism, this is a low key and utterly delightful little gem.
Jean-Luc Godard famously said that "the cinema is truth 24 frames-per-second". What he forgot to mention is the fact that truth can often be boring, and that Hitchcock may have had a point when he described drama as ‘life with the dull bits cut out’.
Yet The Happiest Girl in the World, the feature length debut from Romanian director Radu Jude, shows us two worlds: one is that of the seemingly dull and the mundane; the other a glittery place of forced spontaneity and smiles. And it is the former that is by far the most fascinating.
Eighteen-year-old Delia (Andreea Bosneag) has won a luxury car in a competition. All she needs to do is drive to Bucharest with her family to film a commercial expressing her joy at winning the prize and her admiration for the fizzy drink that helped her win it.
After a long journey she finds herself on set with a bewildering array of people getting her to do exactly what they need for the commercial to look perfect. In between an ever-increasing number of takes, she argues with her family. They want her to sell the car in the hope it will lift them out of poverty. Delia wants to keep it. As the arguments increase, Delia finds it ever more difficult to play the part her producers want.
Occurring in (almost) real time, the film makes much play of the repetitive nature of the filmmaking process as Delia is forced to repeat, time and time again, that she is now 'the happiest girl in the world'. At first this repetition is funny, then annoying, before finally drifting into the realms of the absurd as the filmmaking crew gets ever more desperate. Compared to the fakery of the commercial, the languid scenes with Delia and her family are suffused with a tender honesty and angst as they bicker and see their relationship change over a short period of time.
Jude’s languid direction adds to the sense of deliberation in this slow but extremely elegant movie, which is helped by some understated acting and a genuinely engaging chemistry between the family. A portrayal of family life, and a sly dig at both the filmmaking process and consumerism, this is a low key and utterly delightful little gem.
After some excellent shorts, Radu Jude has been a talent talked up over the past few years.
Slow-paced with an occasional bout of absurdity, it draws you in and keeps you mesmerised.
Beautiful acting and measured direction makes this a welcome breather from cinema’s usual ‘slam bang’ nature.