Both bittersweet and funny at the same time, On Happiness Road is a Taiwanese animated drama that invites viewers to reflect on what happiness truly is.
Chi (voiced by Gwei Lun-mei), a middle-aged married woman working in the United States, returns home via Happiness Road in New Taipei City after her grandmother dies. The story jumps between Chi’s present and her past in the 80s as she reflects on whether she is truly the adult that she always wanted to be when growing up, or whether she is stuck in a role her parents and society wanted her to fit into.
The time jumps are confusing and hard to follow at first, but viewers eventually get used to it – as long as they’re giving their full attention to the story.
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The animations are coloured in warm, mellow tones, and the images we see of Chi’s mind as a toddler are as fanciful and as imaginative as a child’s should be. Threatening characters morph into monsters, and Chi’s father – who saves her from a dog attack – is seen as a superhero. Notable real-world events, such as the political, social, and cultural tensions in Taiwan in the 80s, are painted with accuracy here.
There’s more to love about this film than the imagery, though, as the story itself is equally as captivating. The story doesn’t just reveal Chi’s doubts about her life and her emotional turmoil, it also asks its audience to look at their own lives. What is happiness, and is there such a thing as true happiness, if our priorities in life are constantly changing? On Happiness Road’s worthy message is that it’s okay not to know, or to change your mind about what brings you joy, because we are constantly changing. Older viewers might get more out of this film than younger ones, but there’s still something for everyone to love here.
Edited by Ginny Wong