Directed by: #AlessiaGalatini
Written by: #AlessiaGalatini
There’s a lot of pressure to look a certain way these days, particularly for women. You can’t go to the beach unless you have a ‘bikini body’, you can’t be too thin because that must mean you have an eating disorder, but neither can you be curvy because that means you overeat. It’s a veritable quagmire of crap; a minefield that far too many women (and men) negotiate each and every day. And what’s worse, this way of looking is often dictated by celebrities rather than people with actual qualifications. Be they actresses, musicians or influencers (whatever that is), everyone wants to sell you their own brand of perfection; of fitness; of happiness.
Nina (Paige Gilmour) works for one such weight loss company (Diet Plus - Less cals for happy gals). A company that suggests you don’t drink water with a meal as “you’ll get bloated”. She’s the very epitome of a sales representative: overly familiar, overly casual and entirely false. She flitters from one phone call to the next, distributing company slogans and handing out questionable health advice—hey, it’s a job! But what seems like a typical day at the office will soon be turned on its head, after Nina receives a phone call from Amanda (Michaela Mackenzie), an upset customer with some complaints.
Out of the film’s cast of two, only Gilmour appears onscreen, with Mackenzie only existing as a voice over the phone. What’s impressive is how much each actress can convey with just a tonal shift in her voice (in Mackenzie’s case), or a slight glint of realisation in her eye (in Gilmour’s case). There’s an interesting dynamic at play here, also: with Nina dominating the first half of the film with her confidence, before then getting knocked back in the wake of Amanda’s heart-wrenching cries for help. Whatever you think of the message it’s trying to impart, or of the film in general, there’s no denying that these are two incredibly strong performances.
The movie is also surprisingly layered, at least for a 7-minute long short. There’s ample metaphor to be found here: such as the red dripping nail varnish that Beatriz Delgado Mena beautifully frames and lingers so heart-achingly on, and Nina’s constant primping, selfie-taking and insistence on talking in hashtags. Of course, anything like this is up to interpretation from the viewer. What is dealt with, rather explicitly here, is the psychological effects that can be caused by these fad diets - the ones that promise big results and fast! And, of course, by our society’s unrealistic conception of beauty, which is often, it has to be said, sold by women’s magazines. But what makes this all the more tragic is, at least judging by Nina’s actions, I don’t think this is the first time she’s had a call like this. And she knows it won’t be the last.
Alessia Galatini’s Happy Gals is an irony; an antithesis of its own title. Because, actually, this is a harrowing piece of work, one I fear accurately represents the feelings of far too many women. What Galatini has achieved here in an incredibly short runtime is nothing short of astonishing. This film needs to be seen.