Jan Decleir gives a memorable performance as an unemployed, single man in 1980s Belgium in this film with a nuanced visual style and narrative as fragmented and aimless as its main character. He is a fully fledged character who confronts having his life taken out from under him with a balance of jocularity and depression. He finds both humor and frustration in being trapped by an uncaring bureaucracy and by those assimilated members of a superficial society who find easy distraction in superfluous trivialities.
When faced with unemployment, he has "Time To Be Happy" (the film's English title), but also time to think--about himself and about the nature of the society in which he lives. He tries to find connection with a married woman as frustrated with his bitterness as she is by her own marriage. He feels warm nostalgia for the naive optimism of youth with a young student whose future seems just as uncertain; yet another frustration for him to confront. He sees injustice in the nature of a globalized society where distant resources are exploited by cheap labor to supply a lifestyle for an indifferent population. He seeks sincerity but finds little more than cheap platitudes and unthinking quips from his peers. He recognizes his own faults as well as his own helpless victimhood. Ultimately, though, it seems that those further entrenched in society and those who have not taken this time to reflect on themselves or society at large are even more dysfunctional than this man they so carelessly mock as being the dysfunctional one.
This film is a hidden treasure that recalls de Sica (e.g., "Umberto D" specifically) in both its contemplative content and realistic presentation. If you can find it (and you probably can if you scour the internet carefully enough because you likely won't find it in a video store or online renter/retailer), watch it. It will pull in and reward the patient viewer; I also enjoyed the ending. It serves as a reminder that even worthwhile films can easily be exiled to obscurity (but hopefully not completely forgotten--that's why I wrote this review).
1 of 1 people found this review helpful.
Was this review helpful to you?