Directed by: #PidikitiJeetendra
New Year’s Eve parties are godawful. Fact. You’re all partied out from Christmas, having to stand around mingling until midnight, awkwardly out of the way of the TV (because one person wants to watch Jools Holland), until you half-heartedly mumble out Auld Lang Syne and take a taxi home at triple the rate. Quite why the father in Happy New Year is so desperate to attend one is a mystery, but the fact we are in the middle of a pandemic is only one of several reasons to give it a miss.
A father (Raju Muthuswamy) and daughter (Jessica Simon) sit in their garden discussing an upcoming family party for New Year’s Eve. Dad is keen to go, but the daughter feels uneasy about the dangers of a gathering during the pandemic. Initially uncomfortable about arguing against the plan, she finds the confidence to stand up to her dad and put their safety first.
Happy New Year is a very contemporary short film with an important message about complying with COVID safety measures at its heart. It makes for relevant viewing – especially at a time when public patience with lockdown is growing ever-more strained. A message of hope at the film’s conclusion that brighter days are coming is welcome as we all have to hold on that little bit longer until the types of celebration the family are missing out on can return.
The performances from Raju Muthuswamy and Jessica Simon are strong and convincing. Simon’s awkwardness turns to confidence in a moving manner. Her father’s initial resistance gives way for familial understanding in a quietly heart-warming way. There’s not an awful lot for them to sink their teeth into, but the roles are performed well.
The film has some production issues – particularly with the sound quality. The actor’s words can be a little hard to hear throughout the conversation which feels like an avoidable flaw. The socially-distanced circumstances of the film’s creation are the likely explanation for this but it does impact on the viewer’s experience regardless.
There is not much else to the film beyond the main theme and its purpose is really to inform rather than to entertain. Viewed essentially as an infomercial it is quite efficient, though it does assume the viewer’s understanding of exactly why gatherings are dangerous right now. Ultimately its plea to its audience to stay strong, obey the rules and hold out for better days is made clear and up-front, but a more in-depth explanation as to why it is so important to do so might have allowed it to better convince sceptics. This is a film that runs on emotion, rather than cold facts. There is nothing inherently wrong with that, but it lacks an educational base that would have allowed for a stronger message of warning.
Happy New Year’s message is an important one, and its mid-pandemic production make it an interesting project during a pivotal moment in history. It is unlikely to convince anyone not already attuned to the rules, however it may encourage those who feel the need to confront doubters to stand up for themselves a little more – something just as important.