Ryusuke Hamaguchi once said he doesn’t believe there is no such thing as pure fiction or pure documentary. In a way, <Happy Hour> represents this philosophy of his. Thanks to the quiet camera work and the sheer length of the movie (5 hours), the characters are fully realized and so realistic that even after the movie ended I kept wondering how the four women’s lives would continue.
Perhaps this intimate feeling towards the main characters stems from the fact that we the audience experienced many events with the characters together, almost in real time at certain times. For instance, in the beginning of the movie, the movie shows an almost entire workshop the women attended. It seemed bewildering in the beginning but taking time to learn about the characters in an organic way made them more realistic and reduced the distance between us and them.
This hyperrealistic experience continues throughout the movie. After we spend the first third of the movie getting to know this vibrant character Jun, we realize that she left the three women and others to escape from her husband. For the rest of the movie, she never reappeared and thus when the three women were dealing with her absence, we the audience were able to empathize with them.
In four different characters and their similar yet very different lives, the film emphasizes the importance of communication and shared experience. That’s probably why I often thought of Hamaguchi’s recent film <Drive My Car> while watching . It almost felt poetic when I realized that the whole experience of watching this movie in a theater with other cinephiles resembled what the movie was about.