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Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Happily Ever After (2012)

Directors: Yonni Aroussi and Ben Genislaw
This film was an official selection at the Filmstock Arizona 2013 round of the revolving Filmstock film festival. Here's an index to my reviews of all selections.
As different an animation as could be imagined from Highway Duel, the only common element this film shares is its lack of dialogue. Instead of a battle of mechanical vehicles unfolding against a backdrop of unspoiled nature, this one's battles are very human and take place in manmade settings, mostly a new home in the big city that turns into an old one as we leap through the decades. We show up as a young couple very much in love are about to move into their first home. They look rather like the Simpsons might have done had Jim Henson created them: animated muppets with huge eyes and slitted mouths that give the animators a lot of breadth for play with expressions. They're accompanied by the sort of smoky jazz that would benefit from an overlay of dark Tom Waits poetry, appropriate because it's light and hopeful but with hints that maybe it won't stay that way for long. Sure enough, as the new man of the house prepares to walk into it, he pauses to ponder on his possible future and wonder if it's worth it.
The design of Happily Ever After is immediately engaging, but it's how directors Yonni Aroussi and Ben Genislaw play with progression that is most successful. We watch as Rani and Keren, the young couple (both names seem to be female, so I don't know which is which), are hurled through their life together, but however good the what of it is, the how promptly trumps it in a consistent manner. Whole decades flit by so quickly that we don't even see them, while other skips forward are much shorter. Conception to imminent childbirth is literally a blink of an eye, after which the parents to be are immediately hauled up to dance on the strings of their puppetmaster newborn who's controlling them from his crib. There's a lot of that sort of metaphor here too and it's cleverly done, often as part of the segue from one scene to the next. I like how metaphor merges the literal with the fantastic, such as when the moon is pulled from the sky and laid on the grass as a blanket for a sexy escapade.

That's an early hint at the surreal nature of some of the metaphor. The most overt one is the trip to the supermarket, where the register racks up the seemingly unending cost of the future as the couple are hurled down the conveyor belt to battle manifestations of the oncoming costs in a mad rush that's half nightmare and half game show. There's a lot going on here, trust me. The clear message of 'don't blink or you'll miss something' is aimed simultaneously at the lead characters and at us, both as viewers and as similar participants in the mad rush of life. For all the magic that's conjured up during the bulk of this flashforward vision, for us if not Rani and Keren, the real magic comes at the end with a brief, touching moment that will surely prompt us all to reflect on our own life, love and commitment. Did we make the right choice? Are we on the same road into the future? Most importantly, was it all worth it? One thing is for sure: this short, voiceless Israeli animation is.

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