Directed by Yang Mingming • Drama • With Yang Mingming, Nai An • 2018 • 116 minutes
Rising Chinese director Yang Mingming both directs and stars in GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY – a mother-daughter story that goes for the jugular.
Wu (Yang Mingming) and her mother (Nai An) live in a Beijing hutong – an old community of cramped alleyways where everyone knows your business and houses are so close together you can smell when neighbors start using a new cooking oil.
It’s not just the neighborhood that’s claustrophobic. At the heart of GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY is the relationship between Wu, an aspiring screenwriter in her 20s, and her bitter, superstitious mother, who has recently turned to writing as well. The tension between the pair is raw, honest, mean, and sometimes funny – with no blow too low and no memory too painful to poke at. But their relationship has its moments of intimacy and tenderness too, especially over meals in their leaky, jam-packed home.
Emotionally intense and sometimes jarring, GIRLS ALWAYS HAPPY is a film about fraught relationships, life in contemporary Beijing, and the challenge of finding your way forward while tied down by the past.