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HAPPILY EVER AFTER (UK/Canada 2014) ***
Directed by Joan Carr-Wiggin
Starring: Janet Montgomery, Sarah Paxton, Alex Kingston, Peter Firth
Review by Gibert Seah
Running at almost 2 hours, HAPPILY EVER AFTER is a delightful comedy drama about two high school friends who both have the identical goal of living happily ever after. The only problem is that it is almost impossible task to accomplish, as most human beings can attest to.
The film centres on Heather (Janet Montgomery), an edgy documentary filmmaker in her 20s returning to her small Canadian hometown to look after her ailing father, Walt (Oscar nominee Peter Firth). She had left the town and her friends and family for Toronto after high school. She then reluctantly agrees to film the wedding video for her former high school best friend Sarah Ann (Sara Paxton). Things turn out more complicated than expected as the film turns into sort of a bedroom farce involving the whole town.
And between family and secrets, Heather is convinced that she and the seemingly carefree bride-to-be have nothing in common – except perhaps the high school teacher they both fell in love with (Tom Cullen).
It takes quite a while for Carr-Wiggin’s film to get a solid footing. The first half of the film appears to be all over the place with too many characters and an annoying lead. The situations all centring around a wedding also seems superfluous. But one has to be patient for HAPPILY EVER AFTER to settle in. It takes a while but the waiting pays off. The film shifts its focus from the lead character to the two leads, the lead and her best friend with an additional twist in the plot coming near the end (which will not be revealed in this review).
The film is about leaving a small town and making good. Another film that deals with this same theme, my favourite but highly forgotten INDEPENDENCE DAY (not the disaster pic) also showed the really difficult decision of small town folk having to make the decision to get away even though all logic points into doing so. The best thing about HAPPILY EVER AFTER is that the lead has left for the big city of Toronto but has not got much success either. She is a documentarist wannabe. Yet all the small townsfolk still admire her, if not for her decision to leave, despite the current state of affairs. The fact that Heather is not perfect and has just an equal if not larger amount of problems makes her character a more interesting one.
The film grows on the audience like a small town does on its visitors. At first annoying and uneventful, a small-town and the film gradually enchants its audience with its small town charm.
Carr-Wiggins characters also are all searching for simple happiness. They are all looking for love, and often in all the wrong places – i.e. the same town. The ‘follow your heart’ message is a bit too obvious, but given the situation of losers, it is an appropriate one to entertain the audience. There is more than meets the eye in this neat little film.
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