I’m a little bit behind, but the second feature length film I was able to check out after Dating Daisy is called Welcome to Happiness. If you got the chance to check out my review for Dating Daisy, you know that I got off to a very good start in the festival to say the least. I’m certainly not quite done, but my time so far has been awesome, and unlike any other experience I have had watching films. After Dating Daisy, we decided to check out some shorts, and they blew us away. If I had to pick genres I don’t know much about in the film world, they would be horror, shorts, and documentaries. I love classic horror, and I love suspenseful films, but I guess you could say that I’m an easy scare. The reason I don’t know about shorts and documentaries are really because I haven’t had many chances to give them looks like I get to see the mainstream genres of film. Anyways, I just have to mention that the shorts amazed me, and I will definitely always have them on my radar. After we saw some live action shorts, we saw Welcome to Happiness, and I’ll just begin by saying that I can’t wait to talk about it. Unfortunately I can’t find the budget on the film, but I promise it’s not a high number.
Welcome to Happiness is written and directed by first time writer, director, and producer Oliver Thompson and stars Kyle Gallner, Olivia Thrilby, Nick Offerman, Keegan-Michael Key, Brendan Sexton III, Josh Brener, and Molly C. Quinn. Children’s book author Woody, played by Kyle Gallner, finds out that he inhabits an apartment where some strange things go on. The printer prints questions, a stranger knocks on Woody’s door, and Woody guides the stranger right into his closet where the strangers disappear right through a small door into another world. This movie also outlines a few other stories such as the story of a struggling man named Nyles, a young and wealthy boy by the name of Ripley, and a strange omniscient man named Proctor. The stories slowly begin to tie themselves together, and a tail of happiness by way of despair unfolds right in front of viewers.
I’m not holding back. This movie floored me. Floored me. I was blown away. I had never heard of this movie coming into it, just as I hadn’t heard of many movies showing at the Phoenix Film Festival, and it was all for the better. Welcome to Happiness had one of the most original, smart, and intriguing plots I have seen in a very long time. I was so sucked in, and on a personal level, the story did everything it needed to for me to emotionally invest myself and let myself be swept right up into everything this film had to offer. I was constantly on alert looking for different symbolism, an element used so phenomenally in this movie, and trying to catch on to what was going on in front of me. It was so original, and it was not like another movie I have seen. It doesn’t need to be an adrenaline packed plot to pick the viewer up and have them fully emotionally, mentally, and heck, physically invested in the story, and this movie demonstrates that to a tee. I was fascinated by the entire film, and if I had to use a word to describe this movie, it would be fascinating. I also have to talk about the screenplay. Oh my goodness, this was a great screenplay. It was hilarious, and it allowed me to connect on a whole other level with these characters and what they are going through. The screenplay and direction from Oliver Thompson is so brilliant, easy to watch, interesting, and entertaining, and it was one of the reasons the film worked as well as it did. Next I have to talk about the performances. Kyle Gallner, who you may know from movies such as American Sniper or the early 2016 Disney feature The Finest Hours, was absolutely incredible in this movie. I mentioned this to Matt earlier today, so I thought I would share it with you: Kyle Gallner in Welcome to Happiness is to 2016 what Michael B. Jordan of Creed is to 2015. Both of these young actors took on big responsibilities and took on emotional roles, and they both did such a phenomenal job, and could come out as some of my favorite performances of the year. They may both miss the Oscar ballot, but I feel as though they are giving some of the best performances of their time. Kyle Gallner nails this role. When he needs to be funny, he is funny. When he needs to be awkward, he is awkward. When he needs to be hopeful, he is hopeful. When he needs to break, he breaks. He is so amazing in the role and does such an amazing job of inhabiting this character, and I can’t wait to see what the future has in store for this young man. In fact, every performance from the cast was phenomenal. I mean each and everyone of them was fantastic, and at some point some credit needs to go to Oliver Thompson for that. Give the entire cast and crew nods for what they have done with this movie because they created a masterpiece.
I had very few negatives with this movie. If I had to pick a few, one is that there is one plot line I did not quite invest myself in as much of the others. This movie does an amazing job of balancing each plot line and allowing me to invest myself into each of them, but there is one that didn’t quite grab me like the others. By the end you get to see how all of the plot lines are connected, somewhat like the Valentine’s Day or New Year’s Eve movies did, only in this movie, the connections are so much smarter and so much more heart felt. My only other problem with the movie was the movie was how it was cut together at some points or the cuts in certain scenes. Sometime they feel too quick or sloppy, when in all actuality I truly believe that the director was trying to establish a style and commit to that style, but sometimes it feels like it was cut together a bit oddly. I’m definitely not talking about the entire film. I am only talking about certain cuts, so no need to make a big fuss over big, never-ending, sloppy cuts because for the most part, that is not the case.
Overall, I adored Welcome to Happiness. Don’t expect to hear me stop talking about this one. When my Top 20 Movies list comes around this year, I can promise you that Welcome to Happiness will score a numbered slot, and it will very likely be a single digit slot. I was so emotionally invested in the story, and on a personal level, this film worked amazingly for me. I thought that it was well written, well directed, well produced, well acted, and just about well “anything elsed.” I adored this movie, and I’m so happy that I got the chance to check it out at the Phoenix Film Festival because without attending the festival, I may have never seen what may turn out to be one of my favorite movies of 2016. I have not stopped thinking about it since I saw it on Friday night, and I’m going to give Welcome to Happiness a 9/10.
Will you be making your way out to the Phoenix Film Festival this weekend? Comment and let me know! If you are out there and you would like to come talk with us, definitely let us know either on this comment page or our new Twitter @pulsemoviecrew because we would love to talk with you. Also, if you would like some more information on the Phoenix Film Festival, you can click right here to see which movies are screening along with times, prices, and exclusive information about the festival. We are seeing multiple movies per day, so be sure to check back with periodically for more reviews and Pulse Movie Crew coverage! I love that I can be sitting here right now in a chair exposing this movie to someone who may have never heard of it, just as I hadn’t heard of it prior to the festival. It is what keeps passion alive and makes independent film one of the most interesting parts of the business. As always, thank you, and keep listening to 88.7 The Pulse!