Movie review: 'My Letters to Happy' delicately deals with depression

Fred Hawson

Posted at Jul 21 2019 09:51 AM

In "My Letters to Happy," Albert Tantoco is a serious, joyless advertising executive. Driven to depression by the death of a loved one, Albert only found his spark again when he started chatting online with a cheerful HR recruiter named Maria Jasmin Pantaleon, who called herself Happy. When they eventually met up, they hit it off mainly because of Happy's relentless energy and generosity revived Albert's joy in living. However, behind her infectious smiles, Happy was also experiencing psychological issues of her own.

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TJ Trinidad is already known for being a good actor and he proves it again here as Albert. When he met Happy, we see his gradual transformation from a bitter ruthless man into someone so much more open and unselfish. He had problems of his own, but when he realized the girl he loved had more serious problems than he did, he decided to man up, face the challenge head on and fully support her along her tougher journey. Trinidad's voice-over reading his titular letters to Happy was sincere with his longing.

I only got to know Glaiza de Castro after her stellar turn as the Martial Law rebel mother Liway, one of the best acting performances in film last year. Despite that unflattering hairstyle given Happy in the first half of the film, de Castro shone through with her genuine sense of euphoria for life. It was not difficult for Albert to fall in love with Happy so deeply that by the time her difficult down phase came to fore, we completely feel why Albert decided to see Happy through it all.

Volleyball star Alyssa Valdez had her acting debut as Albert's protege Cindy. She was still a bit self-conscious in her scenes, but the character was not entirely necessary in the story. Odette Khan appeared as Albert's mother, to whom he was totally devoted after they were abandoned by his father (played by Chris Perriz). Benj Manalo and Sarah Facuri played Albert's friends, while Teetin Villanueva and Juan Miguel Severo played Happy's friends. Anne Feo played Happy's strict boss Jenny.

I get dizzy easily with shaky camera work, so I wished there was not too much of that throughout the film as there was.There may be occasional problems in the pace of the storytelling. It felt a bit jerky at the start, while it tended to drag towards an uncertain ending.

Overall, this was a film sensitively written (by director Pertee Brinas) to expound on the challenges mental health problems bring to the person who has them and their significant others around him. The plot may just a simple story of a two lonely people falling in love, but here depression comes in to disrupt the bliss. This is no fairy tale ride and the film does not sugarcoat the pain and difficulties involved. We really still do not know what is best to do in cases like this, but we know we need to hang on in there and hold their hands all the way. 

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."