Returning to the same characters as the 2012 television series, 42 Seconds of Happiness sees brides-to-be Cybil (Becca Ayers) and Maria (Margaret Kelly) prepare for their wedding with a group of friends. In spite of the happy occasion, the reunion opens up old wounds that threaten to tear the group apart for good. The separation of Tomas (Robert Z. Grant) – Maria’s brother – and his wife Alis (Lauren Sowa) has become a source of conflict in the group, and the tension is only exacerbated when Alis shows up at the house with her “plus one” Marc (John J. Concado).
The chemistry between the characters is extraordinary, which makes it easy to get invested in their intertwining stories. Not a lot of backstory is given to any of the characters, which may be overwhelming at first. However, this helps the narrative progress at a good pace without getting bogged down in minutiae. It’s like a reality television show; once you pick up on who everyone is and their respective relationships, it’s pretty addictive. Multiple conversations take place at once, some so quietly that subtitles have to fill us in on what’s being said, which gives the film a spontaneous and unpredictable quality. When the camera can’t follow every bit of the action, split-screens are used so that we have our eyes on all the characters as much as possible. It’s an impressive technique that director and writer Christina Kallas also uses, but to an even greater effect, in her 2018 ensemble drama The Rainbow Experiment.
For the most part, the film feels as natural and organic as a documentary. The camera is shaky and unobtrusive, its movements dictated by the action. Once the film gets to its climactic scene, however, the drama intensifies to such an extent that the story loses some of its authenticity. It’s a gripping scene but appears excessive and more staged than the rest of the film.
42 Seconds of Happiness is tense but has a comedic flair; the mercurial back-and-forth between the characters is entertaining as it turns from sweet to sour and back again. Kallas’ idiosyncratic filmmaking style imbues the simple premise with originality, and the cast’s tenacious performances bring it all to life.
42 Seconds of Happiness is now available to stream on Amazon Prime Video.
by Holly Weaver
Holly Weaver is currently studying French and Spanish at the University of Leeds, and has spent her year abroad studying film in Montréal. She is enraptured by pre-1960s cinema and some of her favourite films include Singin’ in the Rain, City Lights and The Crime of Monsieur Lange. You can find her tweeting and letterboxd’ing at @drivermiller.