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‘Happy Face’ review: In your face, beautiful, and inspiring

Looking inward.

Happy Face is a movie about outward appearances and finding one’s self. Stan (Robin L’Houmeau) is a handsome 19 year old who attends a support group for disfigured people while in disguise. He says he wants to be a better person, but his actions outside of the group seem to say otherwise. The members of the group also have their doubts, especially when Stan uses unorthodox methods to help them.

It is a thin line between genuine emotion and emotionally manipulative. The cast of Happy Face are not in makeup. The scars, burns, and other unique appearances are real. This will be off putting for some. Which is exactly what director Alexandre Franchi is going for. Happy Face confronts the audience with notions of judgment. As the story progresses and more is learned about each person, one of the themes of the movie becomes painfully clear. People are quick to judge based simply on looks.

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The cast will draw the audience in. There is raw emotion throughout the movie. There are no characters in Happy Face; each person the audience meets are real. This brings dimensions to them all. They are more than patients in a support group. These are people anyone watching will want to meet. This makes the film relatable in an unexpected way.

The one exception is Stan. Between the womanizing and Dungeons & Dragons references, he can be insufferable at times. Happy Face follows his journey, so it does make sense. Still, the scenes that focus on him tend to break the film’s flow. That being said, Stan’s role is to push his new friends. He is confrontational and even antagonistic. It is these actions that push the group. The in your face style succeeds in helping the audience see the world through the eyes of others.

Happy Face can be a difficult film to watch. Instead of being a form of escapism, it forces those watching to look inward. This will make some address things about themselves they would rather not. As hard as it is to admit, many are programmed to judge people based on what they look like. But, as the film proves, it is also an opportunity for acceptance and growth.

Happy Face comes to theaters January 1 and is available On Demand January 5

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