Relative Happiness gets applause at GRFF

Deanne Foley’s film Relative Happiness was screened at the Grand River Film Festival to the joy of the packed audience.

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Deanne Foley’s film Relative Happiness was screened at the Grand River Film Festival to the joy of the packed audience.

The film — adapted from Lesley Crewe’s novel of the same name — took a look at a month-long period in the life of a Nova Scotian named Lexie Ivy who deals with a number of personal trials and tribulations within this short time, such as death, romantic betrayal, self-disappointment and finding love.

After the film Foley, Crewe and star Johnathan Sousa held a question and answer and what it was like making the film.

Crewe wrote the film’s first two drafts and decided to change the source material from focusing on many characters to primarily following one through the plot. Foley said “Lexie’s kind of close to [her] and [her] situation,” and kept this in when she co-wrote the final draft, saying that she “really connected with Lexi’s story.”

At the screening at Landmark Cinemas Kitchener, an audience member asked if there was any dialogue improvised because of how natural it felt. Foley said there was and it made the character interaction “authentic” because of the “discovery on the day” that came with the improvisation over the 16-day shooting schedule. Sousa said that this can especially be seen in the dynamic between Lexie and her best friend and “that relationship is so believable” because of it.

Other audience members who asked questions shared the same kind of positive view, with one saying how he was “never bored like during some Hollywood films.”

It is unfortunate that the film was not as good as an individual audience member as it was to the creators and the rest of the audience. The tone wavers extremely awkwardly from the sitcom-esque shenanigans of a single woman to heavy family drama and the two never coalesce into something satisfying on either a dramatic level or a comedic one.

By focusing on only one of the storylines from the novel they leave a good deal of essential information from the other stories on the cutting room floor. For instance, a major character dies with no setup as to why or how and another one almost fatally runs away for reasons explained only a couple minutes before they find her.

In a film that’s as formulaic as this one any sudden big instances of drama feel like cheap moments of emotional manipulation rather than unfortunate events of random chance.

However, the acting is fine and the colourful photography looks really nice, so it’s not a complete failure. It’s just a film that doesn’t work, sadly.

The film will be screened at various isolated events across Canada and outside cities such as Los Angeles. The director said he hopes to bring the film to Toronto so it can spread from there.






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