‘Breathing Happy’ Is A Fantastical Look At Addiction and Grief Perfect For The Holiday Seasons [FilmQuest 2022 Review]

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Breathing Happy is a weird Christmas redemption story that defies genre. Writer-director-actor Shane Brady manages to give us a mind-bending story about recovery, redemption, and grief with a pinch of magic for good measure. Brady plays Dylan in the movie. Dylan is hours away from achieving a year of sobriety. However, his past comes back to haunt him, in the literal sense, making those last few hours even harder than he could’ve predicted. 

The holidays are difficult for all of us, but I imagine it’s even harder for our sober friends. We also find ourselves instantly rooting for Dylan even before getting the full story. Brady captures something profoundly human in a guy just trying to hold on that is so very relatable. Having his first anniversary on Christmas day raises the stakes even before his inner demons come out to play. Throughout the movie, we watch flashbacks of all the Christmases Dylan ruined because of his addiction. We also see how this has impacted his relationships with his family. Which answers the question of why he’s alone this year for such a big milestone.

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Breathing Happy is a stylistic mindfuck. As we’re watching Dylan get into fights with talking doors, and we’re being thrown into flashbacks via VHS tapes, the narrative becomes a little dizzying. However, before I could get too annoyed, everything started to gel in a way that proved this was the only way to tell a story of this magnitude. The road to recovery isn’t a direct route. The same is true for the bumpy road that is the grieving process. As we discover these VHS moments are filling us in on Dylan’s dead dad, pieces fall into place. This leaves us realizing that this Christmas and sobriety anniversary is even heavier than we assumed at first glance.

Memories are tricky, and the fragmented way this movie gives us these moments makes it hard to not empathize with everyone involved. We feel bad for Dylan’s adopted mom and sisters, but we also are frustratingly sad for Dylan. Anyone close to an addict knows it’s a complicated relationship and that there is no right way to support them. You can try tough love, you can try being too kind, you can try combos of everything at your disposal, but it’s a helpless feeling because nothing you can do is going to magically cure this disease. Breathing Happy does a good job of reminding the viewers that there are no villains even when it looks like self-sabotage on Dylan’s part. There are bigger issues at play, and I think this is part of what works for this movie.

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Breathing Happy is a messy story about being human and having emotions bigger than ourselves. Not all of the humor lands, but it does manage to pull at all the right heartstrings. I’m a magical realism girl, but I can also see this drama not being the holiday movie most genre fans are hunting for at this time of year. However, if you do catch it, you’ll probably agree that Brady has captured a lot more than the advertising for the film lets on. 

Have you seen Breathing Happy? Then we should talk about it at @misssharai.

  • Breathing Happy
4.0

Summary

Breathing Happy is the magical Christmas story about recovery and grief we didn’t know we needed. It’s a drama that’s a little too rock and roll not to fit under our huge genre umbrella. I, for one, am glad it’s here.

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