The question of happiness has been high on the agenda of late as we are faced with uncertainty, fear and distrust. What is happiness? Can it be bought? How do we acquire it? The idea of happiness and the documenting of what makes us happy has become a regular feature over the past ten years. Films such as Roko Belic’s HAPPY (2011) and numerous TED Talks confront the pursuit of happiness and how we can achieve this wondrous and seemingly elusive state of mind. Rafael.V’s project is a genuine and personal exploration of the concept of joy as he confronts friends and family with the question “What makes you happy?” It’s a true labour of love. Rafael.V. wants the film to inspire people to spread happiness and to be grateful for the little things. The un-pretentious, scrapbook feel to the film mirrors the context running through every scene: ultimately, it isn’t money or aesthetics that truly hold the key to happiness but something much more intangible.
The film raises issues surrounding the consequences of living in a society that has codes and formulas that we should follow in order to be happy. Where happiness is seen as something in the distance that we must strive for, something we need to earn. What happens if we aren’t happy? Have we failed? What JOY does is show audiences that in reality we have access to joy right here and now: playing a game of football with friends, family gatherings, listening to our favourite song – these are just some of the sources of joy the film draws upon. JOY feels like a much more down to earth and honest documentary exploring the subject of happiness and is a breath of fresh air cutting through so many of the ostentatious films tackling the same subject. Its informality means nothing is feigned, which results in an authentic and emotionally relatable collage of stories and ideas.
What JOY and projects like it have highlighted is current society’s emotional state. The increasing popularity of mindfulness, the growing waiting lists for therapy, the hygge phenomenon that has infiltrated so many homes: all examples of a society on a quest for happiness. JOY doesn’t promise the key to eternal happiness, but instead documents what many of us already have: sources of joy that we may not recognise. JOY leaves a lasting buzz and along with it an opportunity for reflection on our own happiness. Its rough-around-the-edges approach lends itself to the film’s charm and Rafael.V.’s goal to influence people’s actions and to promote happiness in all walks of life. JOY is small but mighty in its approach, and a must see for those looking for a more relevant and thoughtful take on something that has become increasingly consumable and yet harder to find.