This review is brought to you in partnership with Gravitas and Justin Cook PR
How often have you sat in your mundane day job wondering about the all creative dreams you once had. Dreams that seem to have slipped through your fingers at every turn. But equally haunt every waking moment as you realise life is often a disappointing mix of lost opportunities, dreams and work. I think it would be fair to say that everyone can relate to the themes present in Eric Newman’s life in Appiness. Written by, directed and staring Eli Batalion, creator of the acclaimed web series Yidlife Crisis. Appiness offers a warm hearted and engaging buddy comedy. Not only exploring the confidence and determination to go it alone in the world of start up business. But also the interface between tech and real life happiness, including the smoke and mirrors of the app marketplace.
In telling a semi autobiographical story Batalion’s debut feature is both confident and assured filmmaking. Combining both personal and social development with heartfelt comedy. In fact its rare to see a small budget debut comedy manage to achieve such a glorious balance between laughter and sincerity in character development and narrative.
Batalion’s story opens with the slightly down trodden and lost Eric Newman being handed his notice at work. A life event that while horrendous for many, is greeted with quiet optimism by Eric. As he is finally freed from the shackles of his 9 to 5 cage. His long suppressed dreams finally given wings as he toys with his new found freedom over a beer at the local bar.
However, it is a random encounter with an old school friend Raj (Varun Saranga) that truly sparks Eric’s creativity. As the enthusiastic and puppy like Raj fills his head with idea’s of possible business ventures in the world of tech. Both men bouncing ideas around, their unstructured vision mixing with a total lack of any money. However, the boys lives find structure and possible direction in fellow coffee shop tech wizard Jeanine Genet (Amber Goldfarb). Meanwhile, as money and investment in their app ideas dry’s up and all three find themselves pushing at closed doors. The group resort to new and often risky methods of brining their vision to life.
Appiness gently steers the audience through the transformation of its lead character. Not into a tech god who earns millions, but into a more confident and assured version of himself. A man who slowly values the opportunities life can offer, while equally embracing his own quirky and geeky nature. Meanwhile the enthusiasm of Raj finds its own voice, as he stretches beyond the confines of the family run laundry business. And again while this does not lead to money, position and wealth, it does allow Raj the opportunity to finally express his own individual creativity.
Much of the heartwarming and tender elements of Batalion’s screenplay come from a deep understanding of personal success and failure. Exploring the importance of trying to achieve our goals, even if they do not lead to material success. While equally shining a light on the importance of friendship and support in enabling the fruition of dreams. However, some of the most interesting commentary centres on the tech industry itself. An industry that talks endlessly about bringing people together. While in fact often helping to create increased social isolation and pressure. After all, should anyone need an app to talk to someone sitting just six feet away from them. And does this obsession with virtual conversation only lead us all to become ever more isolated and afraid.
While Appiness never fully seeks to answer these important questions on the interface between tech and human contact. It does in its own delicate and humorous way ask us all to reflect on our growing reliance on tech. While equally wrapping us in a joyous and well-crafted debut feature that sings with sincerity.
Director: Eli Batalion