Liu Jian / China / 2017 / 78 mins
At Edinburgh Filmhouse from Tue 24 Apr 2018
The plot of Have A Nice Day is not what you would traditionally expect from an animated film, being a darkly comic crime thriller following the journey of a stolen bag containing one million Renminbi as it is passed from one character to another, with the rotoscope-like animation providing realistic (if not particularly fluid) depictions of its characters. However, the film manages to use the medium to effectively depict the surroundings of urban China as well as occasional fantastical moments, such as a karaoke-style musical number that satirises Communist propaganda iconography.
The various characterisations and narratives are used to reflect a range of issues present within Chinese society, from the influence of the Triads to aspirations of wealth and foreign education, without any of them seeming forced and obviously didactic. There are even topical references included to the election of Donald Trump and Brexit that reflect a Chinese perspective on international issues. These elements are held in place by a fast-paced plot that contains multiple twists and turns as the bag falls into the hands of multiple characters. This serves to keep the audience engaged through multiple genres, including a humorously brief kung-fu sequence in a hotel room that subverts commonly-seen depictions of the martial art in Chinese cinema.
The only complaint about the narrative concerns its occasional tonal inconsistency regarding realism, with the character of an inventor who gets his hands on the money coming across as having been lifted directly from the spy or science-fiction genre. However, this element doesn’t distract from the rest of the film due to its brief appearance. Overall, Have A Nice Day makes off-beat and unique observations of Chinese society through the use of popular genre conventions and an unusual medium, which results in a visually and narratively engaging final product.