This year, the WOW Film Festival has partnered with Cardiff Animation Festival (of which I am an organising member) to bring a special programme of eagerly awaited foreign language animated feature films, called ‘Tales From The Silk Road.’ On the bill is the gorgeous Mary & The Witch’s Flower, the whimsical Big Fish & Begonia and, you guessed it, Have A Nice Day.
Have A Nice Day, directed by Liu Jian, is a grimy, dark, gangster comedy set in an industrial urban landscape of modern day China, focusing on the wretched lives of an ensemble of horrible characters. The film depicts a violent and unabashed version of Chinese society, one that is driven by greed and an infatuation with the material, literally equating freedom to shopping. A series of ridiculous coincidences link the central characters in a give-me-my-money goose chase, interspersed with random and hilariously animated cutaways. The pace quietly plods on, reminding me of comedies such as Hunt For The Wilderpeople, or if a Wes Anderson film fell in love with a Guy Ritchie film and had a baby.
The film follows the journey of gang lackey Xiao Zhang, who, in desperation to save his girlfriend’s botched plastic surgery, steals a bag of notes from his crime-lord boss. Xiao Zhang crosses paths with a professional butcher-come-hitman, a would-be inventor who wants the money for his start up, and a skanky girlfriend who dreams of running away to ‘Shangri La.’
The animators in the audience might find comedy in the animation in particular. I had a great time trying to work out how it could have been made, finally deciding that it falls somewhere between the ‘limited animation’ of Archer and surreal low budget flash animations from the 2000’s, like Salad Fingers. Fans of animated backgrounds won’t be disappointed in the townscape stakes either; the film’s detailed art style really transports you to this depressive place. The end credits are absolutely tiny for a feature film, with the majority of the creative credits belonging to Liu Jian himself, further cementing my appreciation for it.
Have A Nice Day is screening as part of the WOW Film Festival in the 'Tales From The Silk Road' Programme. You can catch a screening at the Aberystwyth Arts Centre, the Tramshed Cinema in Cardiff and Theatr Clwyd in Mold.
I really hope the word spreads among the animation fans in Cardiff and beyond. I would love to watch this film with a packed audience, if for no other reason than to share in the violent absurdity of Have A Nice Day.