What causes happiness? What does it take to make one happy? Am I achieving my potential happiness? And how do I know that my experience of happiness is similar to other people’s experience of happiness? Those are but a few of the questions Austrian graphic designer Stefan Sagmeister set out to answer with The Happy Film. Whether or not he came back with an answer is up to the audience.

Drawing inspiration primarily from Jonathan Haidt’s book, The Happiness Hypotheses, Sagmeister tries to retrain his mind for happiness through meditation, cognitive therapy, and drugs.

The Happy Film is as much about making a movie about finding happiness as it is about happiness. Sagmeister’s almost ceaseless narration gives a wide variety of conflicting thoughts and notions as he attempts to chart his level of happiness. But despite the connection to the title and the overall narrative, these moments are not the highlight of the movie. Sagmeister is an outstanding and inventive graphic designer, and the movie soars when it captures him and his peers at work. The results are impressive, and even if they don’t provide Sagmeister happiness, they certainly provide satisfaction. Sometimes that’s enough.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5.

The Happy Film (2016)
Directed by Hillman Curtis, Ben Nabors, Stefan Sagmeister
Produced by Ben Nabors
Preferred Content, Not Rated, Running time 93 minutes, Premiered April 16, 2016 at the Tribeca Film Festival

The above review first appeared in the pages of Boulder Weekly Vol. 24, No. 30, “Ushering in a great era for film.”