BITS 2019: Our Review of ‘Happy Face’

Posted in BITS 2019, Festival Coverage, Movies by - November 22, 2019
BITS 2019: Our Review of ‘Happy Face’

Featuring actors with real facial disfigurations, Alexandre Franchi’s Happy Face is a refreshingly frank and charming tale about perceptions of beauty and its relation to the social pecking order.

19-year old Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) has model-ready good looks and a thick mane of hair that make him a hit at the clubs. But after his parents’ divorce and his mother’s cancer re-emerges, Stan’s home life becomes unmanageable. So to cope and help prepare himself for his mother’s impending terminal illness, he bandages up his face and attends a support group for disfigured people.

This confrontational, Fight Club-esque set up doesn’t just rest on empty provocation though, spinning a captivating narrative grounded in true authenticity. You never quite know where Franchi’s script (co-written with Joelle Bourjolly) is headed and the light surrealist touches placed throughout add to the enigma.

This is also a true collaboration with the actors, who bring their own experiences to the fictional roles created for them. They’re all outstanding, from Alison Midstokke as snarky model Maggie to E.R. Ruiz (who also contributes the awesome title rap track) as bitter ex-cop Jocko to David Roche as the optimistic Otis and Cyndy Nicholsen as the quietly heartbreaking Buck. Together with L’Houmeau as the naively quixotic Stan and Debbie Lynch-White as beleaguered counsellor Vanessa, they make a dynamic team, embarking on a mission to turn the prejudice they encounter against the person perpetuating it.

It’s been a full decade since Franchi’s cult breakout The Wild Hunt and Happy Face is a film that’s clearly been developed carefully over that time. It twists and turns into unexpected alleys and culminates in an ending that will leave you perplexed but with an unshakeable grin nonetheless. Go in knowing little and be taken on a strangely endearing journey.

  • Release Date: 11/22/2019
This post was written by
After his childhood dream of playing for the Mighty Ducks fell through, Mark turned his focus to the glitz and glamour of the movies. He's covered the extensive Toronto film scene for online outlets and is a filmmaker himself, currently putting the final touches on a low-budget (okay, no-budget) short film to be released in the near future. You can also find him behind the counter as product manager of Toronto's venerable film institution, Bay Street Video.
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