Four women. All in their 30s. Three married, one divorcee. They are able to tell each other anything. Or at least they thought. One day, after losing in divorce court, one of them gives up on a future with their partner and disappears. The three remaining women take a second look at their lives. The long night is full of questions. ‘Are you really the you you wanted to be?’
User Reviews: If you are willing to dedicate 5 hours of your time to watch Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour, what you’ll find is a cozy yet mildly depressing film perfect for those lonely, chilly winter nights alone.
The film strives to present themes about marriage, divorce, mid-life, relationships, love, and others in an extremely objective way. The dialogue in the café scene even explicitly states this, also inputting that while you can try to be objective, you are ultimately limited by your own experiences. How do you reach this hyper-realism? For one thing you can practically reduce editing to a minimum. The most stand out result of this is not cutting scenes out to pad out the run time. Even I, a person who loves this trend of extending run time in movies, had to split my viewing into 2-parts. However, this luxury of time gives the pacing a very natural feel; characters evolve very logically while not feeling rushed and long scenes of literally just shots of character’s faces lets the audience see character’s feelings change (or sometimes lack thereof) while not seeming abrupt at all. Another point is how the characters perform. The very amateurish quality in performance is reminiscent of films like Hong Sangsoo, a Korean director well known worldwide for his amateur style. The delivery of dialogue is very flat and relaxed, with only slight changes in intonation and volume for those extremely "dramatic" scenes. Characters display emotion with only subtle changes in facial expressions, or sometimes if they are sad, the director only presents them in the aftermath with their bloodshot eyes.
On the topic of dialogue, this film does suffer from some expository dialogue, a quality in a lot of French New Wave films that turns me off most of the time. I wish that in the 5-hour run time, Hamaguchi could have found more natural and normal ways of delivering dialogue.
How the film is presented is gorgeous. From watching some Ozu films, shot composition is very Japanese, a lot of intersecting lines into horizons and such. Color selection and camera positioning makes the film seem very disconnected from the characters, again contributing to the omniscient perspective of the film. And Kobe just seems like a pretty place to be. I especially loved the singles where the camera is placed right in front of the camera, like a Deacons/Cohen Brothers film making us intimate with the character while their cold expressions still leave a veil between us.
Overall, I think those who are willing to be active watchers for the 5-hour run time can get something out of watching this film, whether if it’s about your marriage or if you happen to agree with these other reviews and find that women are evil (?). I personally thought that the main characters felt trapped by the societal pressures of mid-life (marriage, children, love) and that their actions to break out of those chains were out of their intolerance to be stuck in their societal roles as housewives. But the director’s purposeful strategy of "present-how-it-is" kind of gives everyone the right to form and support their own ideals based on this film.