Kanzaki, a quiet middle-aged man, arrives in a small town. Inside his bag is a happiness helmet, which can bring back the wearer’s happiest moment in their life. With the helmet, Kanzaki visits convicted criminal Inoue, but it soon appears he is not there just for happiness. Quietly paced, understated comedy gradually gives way to a gruesome and tragic story.
Japanese cult director Sabu is mainly known for his frantic and absurdist films like D.A.N.G.A.N. Runner and Hard Luck Hero. Happiness is much more restrained and starts off as an understated comedy, with Kanzaki almost looking like a traveling salesman with his magical helmet. But after a while, the film takes a dark turn and becomes a violent and tragic story. Along the way, Sabu doesn’t shy away from big subjects: the miserable state of his country, the value of memory and the loss of family structures. Veteran actor Masatoshi Nagase is terrific as Kanzaki and the excellent script works towards a beautifully executed resolution.