Have a Nice Day
Liu Jian, with his second feature animation Hao ji le (Have a Nice Day), is the recipient of 2017’s Golden Horse award in Taipei. Set in a small industrial town in southern China, the film revolves around a young man, Xiao Zhang (Zhu Changlong), stealing a large amount of money in his attempts to help his fiancée attain reconstructive plastic surgery. In a brash decision, he robs a local mobster, who enlists a butcher and assassin to track down the missing cash. The movie uses Liu’s signature sparse style of celluloid animation and is set in modern-day China, the backdrop to today’s political and urban landscape.
The themes resemble those of Quentin Tarantino in their violence, gore and the crime-centred backstories. The director’s animation work – which he does the majority of – is exemplary and creating such a detailed and intricately stylised feature in three years is something creditable. Though its 2D effects can render the film stagnant, with only a speeding car or punch being thrown against a static background to show visual depth, Have a Nice Day‘s strength lies not so much in the story being told, but in its stylistic mode. With the brilliant soundtrack composed by David Liang, which is wild and heavily influenced by 80s synth music, the movie transports viewers into the dark streets of this contemporary Chinese town, complete with neon lights, lonely motels and buzzing internet cafés.
Studios such as Pixar and Studio Ghibli herald the world of animation, but Liu Jian has begun to pave a small niche for himself amongst his peers. There are pop culture references and nods to political leaders such as Donald Trump, as well as technological pioneers Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, providing a current context that viewers can relate to. A brazen allusion to Britain’s Brexit situation will produce some titters; when a character discusses moving to the UK, his friend retorts, “England left Europe, so what’s the point?”.
Though the English-dubbed version has some typographical errors, making it challenging for international audiences to follow through unimpeded, the plot is simple enough to grasp at the bigger picture, and Liu Jian’s feature shows a China that we do not see often in today’s film and television.
Have a Nice Day is released in select cinemas on 23rd March 2018.
Watch the trailer for Have a Nice Day here: