Close Up

28 November 2021: Happy Hour


Happy Hour
Ryûsuke Hamaguchi, 2015, 317 min
Japanese with English subtitles

“A powerful affirmation of the immersive potential of cinematic narrative, Happy Hour is a slow-burning epic chronicling the sentimental journey of four thirtysomething women towards a new understanding of life and love. With gentle irony the film’s title signals both the elusiveness of the peace-of-mind sought by the women as well as the boldly extended five-hour-plus running time so crucial to the rare intimacy of character achieved by director Ryûsuke Hamaguchi. Happy Hour is that rarest of ensemble films, among the few to democratically, patiently and purposefully add subtle complexity to each of its main characters. Much of the rich nuance underlying the women’s constant transformation over the course of the film certainly derives from the unusual collaboration between the relatively inexperienced actresses and Hamaguchi, who together defined the characters in a series of workshop sessions that preceded the film’s eight-month shoot. Pointedly, Happy Hour itself contains a crucial workshop, early in the film, where the four friends are taught by a handsome guru to listen to each other’s bodies and embrace a different kind of interrelational communication. Happy Hour uses its patiently yet never ostentatiously or unnecessarily extended running time to teach the audience this same lesson: to learn to see, hear, sense the indeterminate secret space between people, the distance whose measure may be friendship, deception or love.” – Harvard Film Archive

Screening as part of our Ryûsuke Hamaguchi retrospective and as part of Japan 2021: Over 100 years of Japanese Cinema, a UK-wide film season supported by National Lottery and BFI Film Audience Network.