• Melissa Kartini

Movie Review: On Happiness Road 幸福路上. It's Closer Than You Think

  • Genre: Animation/Drama

  • Rating: PG-13

  • Language: Mandarin

  • Subtitles: English/Malay

  • Starring: Gwei Lun-mei (桂纶镁), Wei Te-sheng (魏德圣), Chen Po-cheng (陈博正), Jane Liao (廖慧珍)

My first impression of "On Happiness Road 幸福路上" is probably no different from everyone else's when they first laid eyes on the film poster.

It looks like a movie that is meant for children. The artwork, while pleasant and relaxing to look at, made me think that this is something I'd watch with my much younger cousins. But then again, with how lines are getting increasingly blurred between animation meant for children and adults, what do I know?

So I watched "On Happiness Road 幸福路上", winner of a number of international film festivals, not knowing what to expect and ready to keep an open mind.

What is it about?

Chi has finally achieved her American dream after persevering with her studies in Taiwan. All should be right in the world, right? She's living in the #1 country in the world, is married to a dreamy American and has her own home in the country.

Yet, not everything is what it seems to be. This fact begins to unravel even more so following her grandmother's death, an event that prompts her to return to Taiwan. It is while she is back on Happiness Road, the place she grew up in, that she begins to contemplate her life and the meaning of "happiness", often reminiscing on the past and connecting it with the present. Is this really the life that she wants to live? She has gotten to where she wanted to in life, but why does she feel so empty? Is there a way for her to find her own happiness?

Perhaps she'll find the answer here, somewhere in Taiwan.

Is it worth a watch?

Despite its deceptive artwork, the plot of "On Happiness Road 幸福路上" is anything but simple. As one delves further into the film, it subtly betrays surprisingly deep, thoughtful and at times, heartbreaking elements that can only be fully appreciated and understood by adults.

40 years of Taiwanese history is carefully interwoven in this story, from the time Chi was brought up during political instability in Taiwan to the present day political realities. It is a powerful tale, that cleverly finds balance in relaying the painful past of Taiwan without allowing it to overtake Chi's personal journey in finding her true path in life. Does happiness lie in the present, where she has a life in America? Or does it lie somewhere closer to home, the country that she was born in?

Chi's soul searching journey is tender and powerfully nostalgic, and her ties with her friends and family poignant and beautiful. "On Happiness Road 幸福路上" touches upon not only Chi's personal journey, but the painful realities of adulthood, which is a theme that can be understood by adults the world over, regardless of the culture that they belong to.

First-time director, Sung Hsin-ying (宋欣穎), may have drawn inspiration for "On Happiness Road 幸福路上" from her own childhood, but her film speaks to everyone who has lived through Taiwan's period of political instability, and thanks to some of its more global themes, adults the world over.

So is "On Happiness Road 幸福路上" worth a watch? There is only one way for you to find out.

"On Happiness Road 幸福路上" is in cinemas now!

Written by Crunch's Melissa Kartini

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