Mothers and daughters have incredibly complicated relationships but few have been so thoroughly dissected with a gaze simultaneously affectionate and unforgiving. The raw and beautiful nature of this fundamental relationship evolves and twists in Yang Mingming’s character-driven debut feature. Originally premiering in the prestigious Berlin Panorama in 2018, the ironically titled “Girls Always Happy” is directed, written and edited by Yang, who also stars.
The immersive, unforgiving documentaries of Wang Bing are often described in terms that would have their director as the Olympic marathoner of the contemporary cinema pantheon. Not only do his films appear monumental by virtue of their long running times, but Wang, even when his voice and image are effaced from his films, is no less present, evidently matching as best he can the intense physical demands of his subject’s environments, whether this be the toxic fumes of a smelting plant (the “Rust” section of West of the Tracks) or the everywhere-by-foot vertiginous slopes in Yunnan provin