×

B-Happy

Coming-of-age stories rely almost exclusively on the charisma of the teen in tale's forefront, a truism affirmed with appealing authority by newcomer Manuela Martelli's perf in "B-Happy." Though the litany of woes that envelop this determined young woman would give pause to Job, cumulative effect finds a sister doing it for herself, suggesting good cheer in the form of fest dates, limited arthouse biz and decent ancillary.

With:
With:Manuela Martelli, Eduardo Barril, Lorene Prieto, Felipe Rios, Ricardo Fernandez.

Coming-of-age stories rely almost exclusively on the charisma of the teen in tale’s forefront, a truism affirmed with appealing authority by newcomer Manuela Martelli’s perf in “B-Happy.” Though the litany of woes that envelop this determined young woman would give pause to Job, cumulative effect finds a sister doing it for herself, suggesting good cheer in the form of fest dates, limited arthouse biz and decent ancillary.

“I’m not afraid of anything,” Martelli’s Kathy tells herself repeatedly, though the cards she’s dealt during an already treacherous passage in life provide plenty of opportunities to succumb to fear. While her Yugoslav-born petty thief father (Eduardo Barril) awaits release from a nearby prison, the 14-year-old struggles to get by on the family farm with morose mom Mercedes (Lorene Prieto) and nervous gay brother Danilo (Felipe Rios).

The small Chilean seaside town they’re near provides little opportunity, so Mercedes scrapes by as shop assistant and owner’s mistress at the local market while Danilo smokes dope with his pal and dreams of blowing town. Meanwhile, Kathy develops a hesitant friendship with smart transfer student Chemo (Ricardo Fernandez), who seems sincere but is well behind the curve of Kathy’s emotional development and poise.

Dad’s only out of jail a few days before confirming himself a recidivist, taking his daughter, who doesn’t seem to like him very much, along on an impromptu robbery before disappearing.

When her mother dies and Danilo finally leaves, Kathy is left to fend for herself. She must eventually fend off the shop owner’s advances, dabbling in prostitution as she discovers newfound longing for her father and escapes the clutches of a reform school.

Kathy endures all this and more with a mix of fortitude and pluck. She virtually directs her own deflowering at the hands of the malleable Chemo, later seeming far too regal for her hooking gig (details of which are spared). Only sheer luck provides an escape route from the school, though Katty is smart enough to act when hesitation would prove fatal.

Vet director Gonzalo Justiniano orchestrates the working-class odyssey with assurance and a complete lack of sensationalism. Pic summons echoes of Arturo Ripstein’s decade-old Mexican drama “The Beginning and the End,” which charts the slow, agonized disintegration of a once close-knit family, as well as the hard-hitting work of helmers Ken Loach and actor Peter Mullen.

Though not exactly proactive, Kathy is far from passive, and Martelli (who was 18 when pic was made) plays her with an astute ambivalence that makes the character a Rorschach test for auds’ hopes and fears. Barril stands out from a fine supporting cast as the blue-eyed rogue with no business being a father.

Production chores are handled skillfully down the line, though editing strategy of blackouts that often truncate scenes and Cuti Aste’s appropriately melancholy but overused musical motif become increasingly intrusive. Subtitles on print caught refer to protag as “Katty.”

B-Happy

Chile-Spain-Venezuela

Production: A Sahara Films, Cinecorp (Chile)/Igeldo Communications (Spain)/Joel Films (Venezuela) production. (International sales: Sahara Films, Santiago.) Produced by Carlo Bettin. Directed by Gonzalo Justiniano. Screenplay, Justiniano, Fernando Aragon, Sergio Gomez, Daniela Lillo.

Crew: Camera (color), Andres Garreton; editor, Danielle Fillios; music, Cuti Aste; production designers, Pauline Garbizu, Chopi Vergara; sound (Dolby Digital), Mauricio Molina. Reviewed at Toronto Film Festival (Contemporary World Cinema), Sept. 5, 2003. Running time: 90 MIN.

With: With:Manuela Martelli, Eduardo Barril, Lorene Prieto, Felipe Rios, Ricardo Fernandez.

More Film

  • Aubrey Plaza Spirit Awards

    How to Watch the 2019 Spirit Awards Online

    The Spirit Awards are taking over television Saturday from Santa Monica, Calif., but viewers don’t need a TV to tune in. Hosted by “Parks and Recreation” star Aubrey Plaza, this year’s Spirit Awards are set to air on IFC at 2 p.m. PT and again on Feb. 24 at 9 p.m. ET. However, indie lovers [...]

  • Mandatory Credit: Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP/REX/Shutterstock

    Oscars, After Repeated Tumbles, Take the Stage in Hollywood

    At least the weather will be sunny for Sunday afternoon’s Oscars ceremony following one of the stormiest —  and strangest — awards seasons in memory. Expectations have been turned upside down in key categories amid a historic lack of consensus among guild and critics groups. The 91st Academy Awards will be the first in three [...]

  • Hiccup (Jay Baruchel) and his Night

    Box Office: 'How to Train Your Dragon 3' Speeding to Series-Best Debut With $58 Million

    Universal’s “How to Train Your Dragon: The Hidden World” is far and away the box office champ for Academy Awards weekend with an estimated debut of $58 million from 4,259 North American locations. Three holdovers and an expansion will make up the other top four spots, with the sophomore frame of sci-fier “Alita: Battle Angel” [...]

  • Stanley Donen

    Stanley Donen, Director of Iconic Movie Musicals, Dies at 94

    Stanley Donen, the director of such stylish and exuberant films as “Singin’ in the Rain,” “Funny Face” and “Two for the Road” and the last surviving helmer of note from Hollywood’s golden age, has died at 94. The Chicago Tribune’s Michael Phillips tweeted that one of his sons had confirmed the news to him. Confirmed [...]

  • '2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live

    Film Review: ‘2019 Oscar Nominated Short Films: Live Action’

    The Academy skewed dark in its choice of live-action shorts this year, selecting four films to slit your wrists by — each one featuring child endangerment in a different form — and a fifth, about a diabetic on her death bed, that finds a glimmer of uplift at the other end of life. If that [...]

  • How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes

    How the 'Rich Eisen Show' Mixes Sports and Showbiz in an Entertaining Mix

    Walking through the El Segundo studio where veteran sportscaster Rich Eisen tapes his daily “Rich Eisen Show,” the sheer density of sports memorabilia is overwhelming — everything from game balls to jerseys, gear, autographs and uncountable photos are crammed onto every inch of wall and desk space. But step into Eisen’s dressing room, and the [...]

  • Yorgos Lanthimos

    Film News Roundup: 'The Favourite' Director Yorgos Lanthimos Boards Crime Drama

    In today’s film news roundup, Yorgos Lanthimos has set up a crime drama, “Here Lies Daniel Tate” is being adapted, and Donna Langley becomes a member of the USC film school board. DIRECTOR HIRED “The Favourite” producer-director Yorgos Lanthimos has signed on to write and direct crime drama “Pop. 1280,” an adaptation of Jim Thompson’s [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content