Playing patience under African skies
OPENS OCTOBER 24, CERT U, 95 MINS
Waiting For Happiness is set in a coastal village in the west African state of Mauritania. Nothing much happens here. We’re introduced to various characters, all of whom seem lost in thought, or lulled half to sleep by the sound of the nearby ocean. A teenage lad spends his day smoking cigarettes in his bedroom; an old handyman and his young apprentice take an eternity to change a lightbulb; a young woman recalls her French lover, who abandoned her years back.
Slowly we realise the village is a final departure point for Africans hoping to emigrate illegally to Europe, most of its inhabitants biding time before making the dangerous crossing. And what begins as a curiously reticent study of village life turns into a subtle reflection on belonging and exile, underpinned by a dreamy melancholy.
Short on dramatic incident, Waiting For Happiness frequently tests your patience, and the symbolism is often overbaked. But the performances keep things fresh, and the atmosphere is as vivid as a hot desert breeze. Slow but assured film-making.