THE MYSTERY OF HAPPINESS. Dtarring Guillermo Francella, Fabian Arenillas, Inez Estevez. Directed by Daniel Burman. 98 minutes. Rated PG (Mild themes, sexual references, coarse language).
The Mystery of Happiness is yet another quite insightful, slightly bizarre, comedy-drama from Argentinian director, Daniel Burman.
For those would like to solve the mystery of happiness, unfortunately, there is no ultimate explanation. Rather, questions are raised and suggestions indicated. Because this is a story and not a philosophical exposé, identifying with the characters and their searches, their discoveries and their resolutions will have to suffice.
The opening credits are very quirky. We see two middle-aged men, obviously close friends, doing everything parallel with each other, including their driving, their parking, coming into the office, there are adjacent offices, the window between them… This will be very important as one of them, Santiago, is completely satisfied, really relishes this way of life, the shop they mutually own, the supplying of household goods, the exhilaration of a business that is going well. On the other hand, Eduardo seems to be committed to everything and to Santiago, their eating together, their going to the races together…, the complete ease of being in each other’s company.
However, there is an offer on the table and some young businessman visit the office to make a proposal. Santiago definitely does not want to sell. But Eduardo is not so sure. When he goes home and has a meal with his wife, the incessantly chattering Laura, he realises that she is very much for the sale and what it might mean for them.
Then Eduardo disappears. Santiago is flabbergasted and emotionally upset, never imagining such an event. Laura is also affected and comes in to discuss things with Santiago and a visit to the police to report Eduardo is missing. She find she has a new life in the office and talent for examining books and accounts. What happens is that they talk a great deal, sharing memories of Eduardo, Santiago coming to some kind of terms with his friend’s disappearance and Laura mellowing. They are advised to consult a former policeman who runs an exotic restaurant, something of a seer, who asks questions, suggests clues, opens their eyes to themselves and the nature of their search.
By this time, we ourselves are wondering where Eduardo is – and whether he has just simply given up on his old way of life, its routines, its lack of fulfilment, and has gone off on his own. This means that we share the experience of the search by Santiago and Laura.
There is some kind of solution which we can understand and which Santiago understands – but that is for the audience to see and to reflect on. It is fitting for this film that the review should end with a question. Is happiness a way of life, is it found in success and routine, succumbing to people’s expectations and the consequent expectation on imposes on oneself or is it…?
Fr Peter Malone MSC is an associate of the Australian Catholic Office for Film & Broadcasting.
Released November 28th 2014.