One of the great things about indie animation is it reminds you of the depth and variety which can exist in animated films. I love that indie animation allows their artists to experiment beyond the realm of the family film and take risks, even if not all of them pay off. Such is my feeling with the recent crime noir film from Chinese director Liu Jian entitled Have a Nice Day. It’s not a great movie but, artistically, it is compelling enough to be worth a watch.
Have a Nice Day is set in Southern China, and it is a crime/mafia type movie. A desperate man named Xia Zhang steals a bag of money (around $150,000) from his boss. He is doing this in hopes of taking his fiance to South Korea to have her failed plastic surgery corrected. Naturally, this robbery doesn’t go well with the boss and everyone starts hunting him down.
That’s about all there is to the plot but there are lots of scenes of interrogation and characters chatting about life. It’s interesting the Chinese government insisted Have a Nice Day be pulled from the Annecy International Animated Film Festival last year because, while it is violent, it is not particularly subversive or revolutionary. In fact, if anything, the characters are kind of stupid and bad at being criminals (and philosophers).
There are long segments in Have a Nice Day that are experimental, with music and flashing images, that don’t really make sense in the narrative. There is even a long sequence of just watching a river for no apparent reason. Your tolerance for this type of modern art will determine how much you enjoy these segments. I liked them but I did begin itching for more story after a while.
A good example of a film that combines narrative and experimental animation more successfully is last year’s My Entire High School is Sinking Into the Sea. There are portions of that film which are very surreal and nonsensical but enough of the parody on disaster movies works to make it a satisfying experience. It also has a much funnier script than Have a Nice Day.
That said, I do appreciate the attention to detail and the attempt to try something different. The backgrounds are particularly signficant with nearly every inch of wall space showing cracks, torn posters, and crumbling plaster. The film also uses music to great effect with songs from composer David Liang of the Shanghai Restoration Project. It has a bit of an 80s feel with some 90s Tarantino-ish pacing thrown in there to create an unusual combination.
Enjoying Have a Nice Day will depend on what kind of an animation fan you are. If you want to see something experimental artistically but slight on plot than you’ll enjoy it. If story, humor, and character development are important to you then you probably won’t find it very enjoyable. Have a Nice Day is an R rated film with language and violence so it won’t be for everyone content-wise either. I’m glad I saw it but it won’t stick with me for a long time.
Edited by: Kajsa Rain Forden