Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Daniel Burman
Stars: Guillermo Francello, Fabian Arenillas, Inez Estevez, Alejandro Awada.
Recently we’ve had Walter Mitty leave his dull life behind and head off on a journey of discovery, and we’ve a bored psychiatrist named Hector embark on a worldwide search for happiness. And now we have this comedy/drama from Argentina that also looks at someone undergoing a midlife crisis and similarly looking to find answers to deeper questions about what makes us happy and what defines us as individuals.
Eugenio (Fabian Arenillas) and Santiago (Guillermo Francello, from The Secret In Their Eyes, etc) are lifelong friends and business partners who seem to do just about everything together. They operate a small appliance retail business together, they visit the race track together, and their everyday routine, including driving to and from work, is well coordinated. But the cracks begin to show when they receive a buyout offer. Santiago refuses to countenance the offer, but Eugenio believes they should sell the business and take the money.
But before they decide on the best course of action concerning their future, Eugenio just up and disappears without any warning or trace. Santiago notices his absence, but Eugenio isn’t answering his phone and cannot be contacted. Only when Eugenio’s pill popping and shrill wife Laura (tv star Inez Estevez, returning to the screen after a ten year absence) turns up to their office professing her concerns about what has happened to her husband and threatening to sell the business does he decide to take action.
At first they consult a retired detective in Oudukian (Alejandro Awada), who offers some advice on how to search for the missing Eugenio. After looking at a photograph of Eugenio, the policeman suggests that his departure was obviously well planned and that he has headed off to some place that will provide him with a happiness that has eluded him in his current life.
At first Santiago finds it hard to believe that Eugenio has just up and left his former life behind for something more elusive. But soon he and Laura head off on a journey to find Eugenio, and along the way they develop a relationship. Santiago learns that the marriage between Laura and Eugenio was not entirely happy, and he also discovers many other startling secrets about his friend and business partner. Santiago’s rather stuffy personality also undergoes a change during the course of the film.
The Mystery Of Happiness is the latest film from Argentinian filmmaker Daniel Burman (Lost Embrace, etc), whose films often explore family matters. His ninth feature, the film explores themes of love, loyalty, male bonding, infidelity and friendship. Burman has co-written the script with Sergio Dubcovsky, with whom he collaborated on All In.
Burman maintains a relatively light touch and leisurely pace throughout as he develops the odd couple relationship that develops between Santiago and Laura. Francello and Estevez develop a nice chemistry and rapport.
Although the material still seems a little formulaic and predictable, The Mystery Of Happiness is an offbeat but amiable enough twist on the romantic comedy formula. The film unfolds with a dry, droll sense of humour, and the cast deliver pitch perfect performances. And with a brisk running time of just over 90 minutes, the film never outstays its welcome.