Directed by John Goshorn Starring Jennifer Faith Ward, Tom Kemnitz Jr. Indie Film Review by Phil Slatter
The Happiest Place on Earth opens with a series of children’s drawings showing projected glimpses of idyllic families while adult voiceovers speak about the American dream of a family, a dog and 2.4 children. It feels like a documentary but as we meet Jonah and Maggie, the fictional story sets in with some very real world problems lurking just around the corner.
Life seems good for the couple who have just moved in to their new home and throw away their birth control in a scene that is brilliantly juxtaposed later on. However, shortly afterwards Jonah is made redundant and struggles to find a new job, which obviously has an effect on both their marriage and their plans.
There are a lot of plot developments in the early stages and while it may feel a little rushed, it’s important to remember the independent nature of the film and therefore the need to develop the story in a shorter space of time than may be possible with more money. That said, at least a reference to more time passing may have assisted here.
The key development occurs around the mid-point which adds a sense of mystery to the plot and the focus of the film shifts from Jonah to Maggie. She is forced to make some complex decisions and Jennifer Faith Ward holds the screen, and subsequently our attention, well.
However, the script’s central idea is not a particularly original one and the key revelation to the central mystery is hardly a surprise. Thematically the script raises some interesting moral complexities for individuals in such situations but it doesn’t really get under the skin of them or invest enough time into the decision making of one character that is so crucial to the film’s central premise.
The story itself does have a dramatic open ending that, whichever way you look at it, demonstrates that much of what has gone before was not worth it, but the relatively predictable nature of a not entirely original plot up to that point is the film’s main downfall.
The Happiest Place on Earth is now available to watch on Amazon. Watch the official trailer below...