‘H is for Happiness’ is a brilliant, life-affirming West Australian film

H is for Happiness | Dir: John Sheedy | ★ ★ ★ ★ ★

Walking out if the screening of this film, my companion asked why Australians always seem to make quirky films and my response was that it is because we do them so well. We are able to laugh at ourselves and celebrate eccentric differences, even when working through some rather bleak obstacles thrown at us by life with a smile on our faces.

Adapted from Barry Jonsberg’s popular young adult novel My Life as an Alphabet, the film draws us into the life of precocious 12 year-old Candice Phee (Daisy Axon). An overachiever at high school who is often bullied, with parents Jim (Richard Roxburgh) and Claire (Emma Booth) who have detached themselves from life after a family tragedy, she has few reasons to be so cheerful.

When new kid Douglas Benson (Wesley Patten) ends up sitting next to her in class, the two outsiders form an instant friendship. Although permanently optimistic about life and people, Candice does worry about Douglas, who believes he is from another dimension and can only return ‘home’ by jumping from a high tree.

Candice also worries about her grieving parents and the feud between her father and her Uncle Brian (Joel Jackson), but her glass-half-full attitude propels her into coming up with wacky schemes to get all the broken people in her life back on track.

At the same time, she is enthusiastically working on the assignment set by her teacher Mad Eye (Miriam Margolyes) where they have to write about their life by using the letters of the alphabet. Her insights show that she is probably more aware of what is happening around her than the adults in her life.

‘A’ is for Albany where H is for Happiness is filmed; ‘B’ is for brilliant which is the only word to describe John Sheedy’s life-affirming film and ‘C’ is for celebration of good old Aussie quirkiness.

H is for Happiness screens from 2 July at Luna Leederville.

Lezly Herbert

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