At its heart, Happy Face is a film about a teenage boy, Stan (Robin L’Houmeau), attempting to reconnect with his mother who is dying from cancer. His mother, who often manipulates Stan, feels a sense a loss of self-worth when she loses her beauty due to cancer treatments. In a misguided attempt to learn how she feels, Stan deforms his face with bandages and joins a therapy workshop for patients with facial differences.
While the film, which screened at the 2019 Slamdance Film Festival, shines a spotlight on the lives of many individuals with facial differences, Stan’s relationship with his mother remains a major theme – making this a film not about disability or just for people with disabilities but a film about important family dynamics that is relatable to everyone.
Stan’s bandages are a metaphor for his own pain and confusion over how to react to his mother’s declining health. When he is discovered for being a handsome individual with no facial scarring, he convinces the group members to let him help them face their fears beyond the physical issues. Yet Stan is not allowing himself to do the same. Ultimately, his new support group helps him do so. [continue reading…]