The Complexity of Happiness – VIFF 2016 Review


Italian director Gianni Zanasi (Non penarci) offers up a shrewd, cerebral, and stylish comedy with his latest film The Complexity of Happiness. Enrico Giusti (Valerio Mastandrea, brilliant) is a scoffing and somewhat autonomous businessman who routinely chides no-account CEOs to trade their companies, but his old ways won’t wash now that he’s met two orphaned beneficiaries, college student Filippo Lievi (Filippo De Carli) and his teenage sister, Camilla (Camilla Martini).

As Enrico’s aboutface ensues so to does a strange relationship with a female friend of his estranged brother. This young woman, Avinoam (Hadas Yaron), an Israeli, is something of an enigma, and Enrico can’t help but be drawn to help her, particularly after a self-harming incident lands her in the hospital.

Watching Enrico warm to and assist this surrogate family of sorts, is uplifting and thankfully unpredictable. Some familiar tropes are subverted and capsized (Avinoam feels like a manic pixie dream girl but that soon deviates, as does the Lievi’s sheltered rich kids conceit) and all with a deft attention that is, especially for a comedy, unique and refreshing.

Zanasi’ film takes some getting used to as it’s unashamedly strange and stylish, and doesn’t mind bringing the narrative to a screeching halt to take musical interludes with slo-mo music video flourishes and some rather arresting tableaux. A sequence with a car crash is particularly ravishing, while a hotel room love scene is made fanciful and surreal with a lovely levitation.

The Complexity of Happiness may be a small scale saga that affects only a few bemused and disparate characters but it’s dazzlingly determined, gorgeously filmed, and completely enthralling. Zanasi offers polished and precise filmmaking full of flash and flair making The Complexity of Happiness something of an active and audacious coup de cinema.

Taste of Cinema Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Author Bio: Shane Scott-Travis is a film critic, screenwriter, comic book author/illustrator and cineaste. Currently residing in Vancouver, Canada, Shane can often be found at the cinema, the dog park, or off in a corner someplace, paraphrasing Groucho Marx. Follow Shane on Twitter @ShaneScottravis.