30th March (Netflix Original)
A couple on their three-year anniversary need to decide whether to stay together or call it quits.
Noël Wells, Ben Schwartz, Rahul Kohli
The new Netflix Original movie, Happy Anniversary, focuses on a day in the life of a 20-something-year-old couple, Sam and Mollie (Ben Schwartz and Noël Wells), who are contemplating their future together. It just so happens that this uncertainty about their relationship is sprung by Mollie on their third anniversary together. In many ways this is a classic will they/ won’t they situation, but rather than the usual ‘meet cute leading ultimately to a relationship and an off-screen happily ever after’, the focus here is on a relationship getting stale over time. It’s a slight twist but allows the movie to explore the genre in a new way.
Happy Anniversary has a couple of other aces up its sleeve which help it stand out amongst the vast crowd of quirky rom-coms pumped out by Hollywood each year. First off is the cast; Ben Schwartz has been deserving of this sort of leading man role for a while now and has great comedic and dramatic chops in equal measure. Noël Wells is a match for him in both departments and is building a solid career also (her work in the first season of Netflix’s critically acclaimed show Master of None was similarly stellar). The two leads have an easy chemistry and charisma to spare, and the film rides along on their charm for most of its short runtime.
The rest of the cast is impressive too but with the film so squarely focused on the two leads, everyone else is left on the periphery with little to contribute. It feels like screenwriter and director Jared Stern wrote Rahul Kohli’s Ed as a scene-stealing best friend type, and whilst he’s good, he never quite fulfills that role. Kristin Bauer van Straten makes an appearance as a potential distributor for Sam and Ed’s t-shirt design company but whilst the scenes are silly fun, they’re ultimately pretty extraneous for the most part, filling out the already short run-time. Other characters drop in and out without really leaving a mark on the film, with a plot line about Mollie’s dying father completely unnecessary. Ultimately though the film is only concerned with its two main characters and that is the right call because they’re by far the most interesting characters. They are intriguing, flawed people who are also immensely likable and their relationship’s highs and lows rightly dominate the screen.
The film breathes some new life into the usual rom-com story via a gently inventive script. Stern uses montages and flashbacks throughout the movie, allowing us to thread together the relationship over time with all its blemishes, imperfections, and quirks. This is one of the film’s greatest strengths and these visual flourishes even link into the film’s final moments in an attractive, naturalistic way. Combined with the strong lead performances, this helps makes Happy Anniversary a short but sweet rom-com.
Netflix has been hit and miss recently, mainly because the streaming service pours out so much content with seemingly little quality control. It’s worth searching amongst the sludge for this one though. Happy Anniversary is an enjoyable film, with a quick runtime (barely brushing 80 mins) and a good handful of laughs. It was never going to be ground-breaking, but go in expecting a sweet, slight, quirky rom-com and you won’t be disappointed. You may even be pleasantly surprised.
Strong lead casting
Vibrant visual flourishes with montages and flashbacks
A large number of irrelevant characters