Candice Phee (Daisy Axon) is a bright, articulate, order-loving 12-year-old, whose love of reading the dictionary and asking too many questions in class has left her without any real friends. Then new student Douglas Benson (Wesley Patten) lets Candice in on his big secret – he’s from another dimension and is hatching a plan to return there by jumping out of the highest tree he can find.
While the two friends work on Douglas’ interdimensional escape plan, Candice tries to stitch her family back together. The death of her baby sister has left her mother (Emma Booth) depressed and bedridden, and a failed business relationship has torn her father (Richard Roxburgh) and uncle (Joel Jackson) apart.
Exploring themes of grief, family breakdown, first love and conformity, H is for Happiness is a coming-of-age story that explores adult problems through the eyes of a pre-teen who just wants everyone to be happy.
Family breakdown; death of a child/sibling; bullying; mental health; parental conflict
H is for Happiness has some violence. For example, Candice’s mother gets upset during an an argument about Candice’s dead sister. She throws a pottery teapot at Candice. The teapot smashes against a wall, but part of it hits Candice’s neck. Blood is visible.
H is for Happiness has some sexual references. For example, Douglas gives Candice a pair of homemade inflatable fake breasts after she complains about being flat chested. This is supposed to be funny rather than sexual.
Alcohol, drugs and other substances
H is for Happiness shows some use of substances. For example:
- Adults drink champagne.
- Candice’s mother takes prescription medication. It’s implied that it’s antidepressant medication.
Nudity and sexual activity
H is for Happiness shows some nudity and sexual activity. For example:
- Various teenagers kiss in the background of several scenes.
- Candice and Douglas kiss several times.
The following products are displayed or used in H is for Happiness: a Panasonic microwave, an HP computer, and a Pioneer record player.
H is for Happiness has some coarse language and name-calling.
Ideas to discuss with your children
Based on the children’s novel My Life as an Alphabet, H is for Happiness views adult struggles through the eyes of an odd but bright 12-year-old girl. Although the movie has funny moments, its dramatic scenes dominate, highlighted by sweet performances from the younger cast members and the colourful set design.
H is for Happiness will probably appeal most to children aged 10-13 years, but we recommend parental guidance for this age group because of the movie’s distressing themes of death, family breakdown and depression.
The main message from this movie is to be kind and caring towards others because you never know what people are dealing with.
Values in this movie that you could reinforce with your children include:
- finding goodness and value in everyone
- seeking help from others when you need it.
This movie could also give you the chance to talk with your children about real-life issues like:
- children cooking unsupervised
- mental health
- bullying – for example, a child in Candice’s class calls her ‘SN’ (special needs), and treats her like she’s weird and unlikeable, despite not knowing her.