Girls Always Happy


Contemporary World Cinema | 2018 | 117 minutes

Stranger Says:

An adrift screenwriter (director/writer/editor/star Yang Mingming) and her mother share an exceedingly cramped house in Beijing. The sounds of their bickering can be heard from space. This sneakily insightful drama features a terrifically lived-in chemistry between the leads, especially when they’re trying to make nice in order to pave the way for a potential inheritance. Warm, occasionally silly (the director has a wonderfully loose-limbed screen presence), and blessedly saccharine-free throughout, with a final shot that feels like it could and should just keep on going.

SIFF Says:

“The only debt that can’t be repaid in this world is a mother’s love.” That sounds like a nice sentiment, but not when it’s used as a guilt-inducing barb in the middle of an argument between mother and daughter. Deep within one of Beijing’s remaining hutong neighborhoods—one of narrow alleys and courtyard houses that seem lost in time amidst the ever-modernizing city—live Wu (writer/director Yang Mingming) and her mother (Nai An). Both are writers—a screenwriter and a poet, respectively—but neither has anything to show for it other than financial and emotional precariousness. Wu’s father having long since gone, every aspect of this pair’s mutual hostility seems to come from their seeming disappointment with the hand life has dealt them. As Wu navigates a relationship with a divorced film professor, and mother struggles to take care of Wu’s ever-weakening grandfather in the hopes of being written into his will, the two do their best to stay afloat, but their circumstances pit them against each other just when they most need affection and understanding. And yet this film finds endless moments of comedy, camaraderie, and love, painting a perfect and universal picture of the complexity of family. A bittersweet debut feature from Yang, GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY is a bracingly honest film about the many roles women must play in society.

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Film Credits
Yang Mingming
Nai’an, Yang Mingming, Xianmin Zhang, Qinqin Li, Huang Wei
SIFF 2018