My Name Is Happy – Review

Release Date – TBC, Cert – N/A, Run-time – 1 hour 21 minutes, Directors – Nick Read, Ayşe Toprak

After just surviving a shooting, singer Mutlu Kaya turns to a life of activism, trying to combat the rising rates of femicide in Turkey and around the world.

My Name Is Happy makes no hesitation in emphasising just what was taken away from it’s central focus. At the age of 19 Mutlu Kaya was whisked from her small Kurdish town to Istanbul to appear on a major talent show. Her singing received masses of praise and she was ready to go through to the finals. However, much of this was brought to a shuddering halt when the man she turned a proposal down from shot her in the head, claiming if he couldn’t have her no one could, especially the country through their TV.

Mutlu only just survived the shooting, with the bullet permanently lodged in her brain. Directors Nick Read and Ayşe Toprak follow her as she rebuilds herself and takes to the streets to challenge the rising rates of femicide both in Turkey and around the world. Where the film best succeeds is in the fact that it truly does focus on Mutlu. It brings a sense of hope to the proceedings through this. Yes, there may be the elements of emotion from family members, who certainly contribute effectively to the piece through their interview segments, but the focus is largely on Mutlu and how she develops over time.

Taking to social media and interviewing people about femicide on TikTok you can see her passion increase. In hand the film’s does too as it captures her spirit and uses it as something of a driving force, particularly in the final 20-25 minutes when a more personal angle comes through in this already personal portrait. To call back to the lack of hesitancy the film makes sure to deliver its points in the 81 well-paced minutes and proves its effect through a shocked and riled feeling at the closing text. A haunting nature returns, one first present when Mutlu talks about her attacker, referring to him as a “monster”, getting across the still-present fear.

Engagement comes from the interest in both Mutlu’s progression, as occasionally observed and expressed by those around her, and what she has to say. Her opening words (including mention that her name means ‘happy’), and indeed a number of things she says throughout, are particularly striking and bring you in to feel more a part of the piece. There was a point when I thought this review might have largely been made up of quotes, particularly from the early stages of the film, it’s of course these which create the most insight and perhaps the initial engagement with the film. Bringing you in and taking you along for the quickly moving journey, well contained within its short run-time and making sure to get across its points in that time.

Well put together with a good deal of effect throughout its short run-time, My Name Is Happy engages you through its fixed focus on central figure Mutlu, rarely breaking away from her. There’s an interesting piece of work here, largely thanks to the tone of the depictions throughout.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

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