A unique, fun and meaningful look at how everything works together for good….even tragedy.
Director: Oliver Thompson/2015
Street Date: May 16, 2017/Kino Lorber
One of the great things about reviewing films are those moments when a small film comes across your path that is unique, fun, and meaningful. As it is aptly titled, Welcome to Happiness, you are guaranteed to smile at this quirky, esoteric story that grapples with the heady notion of how every tragedy has effects that can turn to good, if we are able to see things beyond the experience of our own grief. Despite the heavy subject matter, director Oliver Thompson brings a winning charm to the proceedings in both his direction, and through the script that he wrote. He also provides the musical score and serves as one of the producers. All of these things come together to create one of the most unique films you will experience.
Thompson has created an intriguing story with some important themes, and is able to present it all with a light touch that will make you smile, while still causing you to ponder some of the larger questions it asks, long after the film has ended.
Woody (Kyle Gallner) is a children’t author who rents an apartment from his landlord, Moses (Nick Offerman). The setting itself is a unique one featuring a mural around the living room that pre-exists Woody living there. For curious viewers, this mural will provide many clues and Easter eggs for what you will see throughout the film. In addition to the mural, the apartment also features a 1990’s era dot-matrix printer. Whenever this printer turns on and prints, a knock on the door will follow where Woody will open the door to a complete stranger and proceed to invite them inside to answer 3 unique questions, as well as a test of sorts with a small rock. If this test is passed, the stranger is led to a small closet that contains a door. If the person is worthy, that door will open, the stranger will walk through, and Woody will never see them again.
While Woody lives with this very strange phenomenon every day, he is happy to do this task, hoping that he is helping people out. He is content to do this, and write his book’s for his editor Priscilla (Paget Brewster), never really needing to know “the answers” behind all of this. This is not to say that he isn’t curious, but that he understands that its meaning is beyond him, and he is OK with not having all of the answers and simply doing his part.
He has also made a connection with one of his neighbors, Trudy (Olivia Thirlby), but when one of the strange knocks on the door interrupts their first time hanging out, it begins to plant some seeds of dissatisfaction in his heart that is only reinforced when he has his first encounter with one of the previous strangers that has been to his house that gives him a glimpse of what that small door in his apartment leads to. Woody’s knowing of what lies behind the door causes him to lose his contentment in happily doing his part, and instead leads to a jealousy that seeks to undo all he has as he questions why he isn’t allowed to pass through the tiny door in the closet of his own apartment.
We are given some of the backstories of the other strangers such as Nyles (Brendon Sexton III) and Ripley (Josh Brener) and how their lives weave a tapestry into this mysterious door and all who have entered in. Probably the most intruiging, though never explained, characters are Proctor (Keegan-Michael Key) and Lillian (Molly C. Quinn) who, along with Moses, are somehow connected to this whole thing, as well as who has access to the door and who doesn’t.
Thompson has created an intriguing story with some important themes, and is able to present it all with a light touch that will make you smile, while still causing you to ponder some of the larger questions it asks, long after the film has ended. This is a credit to his direction, and screenplay, but also to the cast who deliver strong performances that keep the whole thing grounded.
Kino Lorber has released this DVD and it features a few special features that are worthy to mention. In addition to a trailer, there is also a montage of deleted scenes, including a very beautiful one set beneath a single Joshua Tree where a poetic explanation is given to how these characters fit into the larger universal narrative of life. You can watch this scene by itself, or with a director commentary. As the montage is not very long, each viewing option is easily done without a large time commitment. The film also features an audio commentary featuring Director Oliver Thompson, as well as members of his cast. What is most unique, is that it also features members of his crew, as they provide a unique perspective beyond the actual story being told, to the being able to give some of the behind the scenes ways they help bring this director’s vision to life.
The DVD is presented in 1.85:1, 16×9, is 111 minutes, and recorded in English. It has 5.1 Surround sound and is filmed in color.
The images used in this review are used only as a reference to the film and do not necessarily reflect the visual quality of the DVD.