Have a Nice Day, directed and written by Liu Jian (Piercing I), is a Chinese neo-noir crime thriller.
The film centres around a young man, Xiao Zhang who, desperate to help his fiancé, steals one million Yuan from his gangster boss. Over the course of the evening stories intertwine, and people connect to try and recover the stolen money. Each character having their own motivations for what they want to do with it, and who their allegiances are to.
Admittedly, Liu Jian is a name unknown to myself, yet the style of the filmmaker was instantly striking. The story flows like a normal chase film, with a man on the run, and the pace builds up gradually and effectively.
However, where this film differs is in the use of this particular style of animation. Although seemingly simple, the aesthetic of the film is beautiful, and at times make it impossible to look elsewhere. The characters blend into the setting beautifully, and because the animation style is somewhat messy, it adds to the story perfectly.
On top of this, the tone feels like a British social realist film. Holding cuts for moments too long, showing the mundane actions of characters, and listening in on conversations somewhat irrelevant to the story as a whole. It is this that makes the film stand out, and take hold of an audience.
Importantly, unlike the films akin to this in Hollywood, it never ceases to excite. This means that the stakes are always high, and no character feels safe from death, in fact it is a surprise this film does (SPOILER COMING) have a somewhat happy ending.
Of course, the film isn’t without fault. At times the script goes off on a tangent, introducing characters and then forgetting about them. Likewise, some storylines are dismissed out of hand, seemingly no longer important to the narrative, and if the film had been maybe ten minutes longer these could have been wrapped up nicely.
Yet, this may have gone against the aforementioned tone of the film, it is the social realist aspect that is so delightfully welcome here; the subtle inspection of the society this film resides in, and the small references to world news, is what steeps this film in a reality that is inescapable.
Likewise, and somehow perfectly fitting, is the added elements of surrealism (for example, the musical interlude in the lift) that fit perfectly within the narrative, complementing the weirdly beautiful aesthetic of the film, and the crazy characters depicted.
Therefore, if the film had that perfect Hollywood storytelling, the message may have been lost. Most times, a film with multiple genres and intricacies fail to live up to any of them.
Nonetheless, Have a Nice Day, accomplishes each one with aplomb, successfully navigating all carefully, as if not too overdo any one in particular. This is in fact the most impressive achievement of the film, and of Liu Jian himself.
He has made an entertaining chase film, that flows effortlessly between the long takes of his imagined Chinese city, which without saying anything explicitly, says a lot about society, and the failings of it. Needless to say, I will be watching anything this brilliant filmmaker creates in the future.