Girls Always Happy
(Reviewed by John Glennie)
This is the debut feature by Yang Mingming and is one of China’s most anticipated films by a young female director – who also plays the role of Wu. The story is about a single mother (played by Nai An) and her daughter (Wu). They are both neurotic and aspiring writers living in an old Beijing hutong and struggling to survive. Both are hoping for a breakthrough with one or both of their works – the mother writing deep and meaningful poems and the daughter trying to write a TV script.
Wu’s mother is always nagging her daughter, telling her what to do around the house and with her life – wants her to get a real job so the mother can be looked after into her old age. She also tells her to get married so she can be supported. Wu is in an on-again / off-again relationship with an older man (Xianmin Zhang) but she is reluctant to tie the knot.
There is constant turmoil and conflict – each hating and blaming the other for their poor living conditions. The mother blames Wu for their struggle to pay the rent and put food on the table while Wu says that she is not responsible for her mother’s failings. If either breaks down after one of their regular arguments, the other feels guilty then shows their real love and tenderness. Definitely a love-hate relationship.
The movie didn’t really do much for me. I kept waiting for something meaningful to occur but it didn’t. I did find the depiction of living conditions and lifestyle quite interesting. Must say that I do get frustrated when the sub-titles are in white text and half the scenes have a light background behind the text, so effectively I miss a large proportion of the dialogue!