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Great Happiness

Ji Le Dian
2019 / 150m - China
Great Happiness poster

A rather basic Chinese drama. For the past 20-25 years or so, a combination of generational differences and urban/rural friction has been the staple of the Chinese drama/arthouse scene. Great Happiness is another take on these themes, this time set in Xining, the capital of a province bordering on Tibet.

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We follow three youngsters from China's one-child era who are trying to make it as adults. Li is betting everything to make it big as a businessman, Sui wants to be an architect but dislikes China's megalomaniac construction projects and Wang is facing the pressure of his family to become a father.

The cinematography is polished and makes great use of setting and lighting. The score on the other hand is lacking and the sometimes overbearingly vocal characters stand in the way of an atmospheric film. The themes are also predictable and rather stale, which makes the 150-minute runtime a bit of a challenge. There's potential here, but only if Wang can find a way to set himself apart from his peers.