A powerful affirmation of the immersive potential of cinema. Happy Hour is a slow-burning epic chronicling the emotional journey of four thirtysomething women in the misty seaside city of Kobe. As they navigate the unsteady currents of their work, domestic, and romantic lives a sudden, unexpected rift opens between that propels each to a new, richer understanding of life and love. Filmmaker Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s wise, precisely observed, compulsively watchable drama of friendship and midlife awakening runs over five hours, yet the leisurely duration is not an indulgence but a strategy to create a novelistic space for everyday moments to become charged with possibility that yields a subtle emotional intensity rarely possible in a standard-length film. Happy Hour is far more than just an ordinary melodrama. It is a spectacularly complex and fiercely poetic rendering of the details of daily life in which ideas and feelings are swayed by the unseen forces of friendship and love and buffeted by the weight of deception, loyalty and tradition.
Winner of awards at major international festivals—including Locarno, where stars Sachie Tanaka, Hazuki Kikuchi, Maiko Mihara and Rira Kawamura shared the Golden Leopard for Best Actress—Happy Hour has brought new attention to the work and career of one of Japan’s most talented young directors.
Runtime: 317 mins
Sho HARADA, Katsumi TOKUYAMA
Satoshi TAKATA, Hideyuki OKAMOTO,
Director of Photography ：
Buoyed by four captivating performances from its unheralded actresses, Happy Hour is a fascinating, towering confection of contradictions: a modest epic; a work that simultaneously resembles both contemporary television drama and art cinema at its airiest; a film you feel like you’ve seen before but that somehow never ceases to surprise. I suspect we’ll be talking about this one for some time to come—and not because of its length.
Hamaguchi is a genius of scene construction, turning the fierce poetry of painfully revealing and pugnaciously wounding dialogue into powerful drama that’s sustained by a seemingly spontaneous yet analytically precise visual architecture.
Hamaguchi’s film develops its characters through accumulated observation and nuance... All we’re really asked to do is watch and listen; as Happy Hour demonstrates with its rare patience, attention and sensitivity, that can make all the difference.
The word communication is uttered frequently in Ryusuke Hamaguchi's spellbinding Happy Hour, a film that devotes much of its epic length to showing how emotions are conveyed and dissembled, whether verbally or nonverbally.
Bad news first: Happy Hour is pretty much a must-see. Given the option of watching 5+ hours on a weekend afternoon, I suspect most of us would rather not, but there are things it’s worth blowing your day up for... Duration is a much-abused tool, but Hamaguchi earns every bit of his running time; if he decides to go Lav Diaz systematic with this, that would be fine by me.