Australian Council on Children and the Media

H is for Happiness

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Not suitable under 10; parental guidance to 13 (adult themes, distressing scenes)

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This topic contains:

  • overall comments and recommendations
  • details of classification and consumer advice lines for H is for Happiness
  • a review of H is for Happiness completed by the Australian Council on Children and the Media (ACCM) on 13 February 2020.

Overall comments and recommendations

Children under 10 Not suitable due to adult themes (death, grief, mental health, parental conflict) and distressing scenes.
Children aged 10–13 Parental guidance recommended due to adult themes (death, grief, mental health, parental conflict) and distressing scenes.
Children over the age of 13 Ok for this age group.

About the movie

This section contains details about the movie, including its classification by the Australian Government Classification Board and the associated consumer advice lines.

Name of movie: H is for Happiness
Classification: PG
Consumer advice lines: Mild themes and coarse language
Length 98 minutes

ACCM review

This review of the movie contains the following information:

A synopsis of the story

Candice Phee (Daisy Axon) is a bright, articulate, order-loving 12-year-old, who’s love for reading the dictionary and asking too many questions in class has left her without any real friends. That is, until 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 after the death of her infant sister left her mother (Emma Booth) depressed and bed-ridden, and a failed business relationship tore her father (Richard Roxburgh) and uncle (Joel Jackson) apart. Exploring themes of grief, family breakdown, first love, and being “normal”, H is for Happiness is a coming of age story that explores adult problems through the eyes of a 12-year-old girl, who just wants everyone to be happy.

Themesinfo

Children and adolescents may react adversely at different ages to themes of crime, suicide, drug and alcohol dependence, death, serious illness, family breakdown, death or separation from a parent, animal distress or cruelty to animals, children as victims, natural disasters and racism. Occasionally reviews may also signal themes that some parents may simply wish to know about.

Family breakdown; Death of a child/sibling; Bullying; Mental health; Parental conflict.

Use of violenceinfo

Research shows that children are at risk of learning that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution when violence is glamourised, performed by an attractive hero, successful, has few real life consequences, is set in a comic context and / or is mostly perpetrated by male characters with female victims, or by one race against another.

Repeated exposure to violent content can reinforce the message that violence is an acceptable means of conflict resolution. Repeated exposure also increases the risks that children will become desensitised to the use of violence in real life or develop an exaggerated view about the prevalence and likelihood of violence in their own world.

There is some violence in this movie including:

  • Candice’s mother throws a pottery teapot at Candice after becoming distressed during an argument about Candice’s deceased sister – It smashes against a wall, but part of it hits Candice’s neck (blood is visible).

Material that may scare or disturb children

Under fiveinfo

Children under five are most likely to be frightened by scary visual images, such as monsters, physical transformations.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children under the age of five, including the following:

  • The children’s teacher, Miss Bamford, has an eye condition that makes her eyeball roll around in its socket – This is meant to be comedic, but may distress younger children (due to the vaguely grotesque nature of it).
  • Candice gets seasick and vomits aggressively numerous times – This is likely meant to be comedic but may be disturbing for many children.

Aged five to eightinfo

Children aged five to eight will also be frightened by scary visual images and will also be disturbed by depictions of the death of a parent, a child abandoned or separated from parents, children or animals being hurt or threatened and / or natural disasters.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes and scary visual images, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged five to eight, including the following:

  • Candice’s infant sister’s death is referenced multiple times (a source of distress and tension throughout the film).
  • A scene depicts Candice in a waking nightmare in which she finds her infant sister dead in her cot – Close ups of toys and toy eyes as if in a nightmare.
  • Candice cuts her fingers multiple times while cooking unsupervised.
  • Candice jumps into the harbour (and is unable to swim), in an attempt to force her feuding father and uncle to reunite by saving her – She is unhurt but discusses death throughout the scene.
  • In an attempt to go into a different dimension, Douglas climbs to the top of a very tall tree and jumps – He hits the ground and is unconscious, before being taken to hospital in an ambulance – He is ok, but the scene will likely distress younger children.

Aged eight to thirteeninfo

Children aged eight to thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic threats and dangers, violence or threat of violence and / or stories in which children are hurt or threatened.

In addition to the above-mentioned violent scenes, there are some scenes in this movie that could scare or disturb children aged eight to thirteen, including the following:

  • There are numerous occasions in which parents argue heatedly, or yell at Candice – These scenes are designed to elicit sympathy for Candice and display her distress, however, are likely to upset younger children.
  • Candice’s mum is depicted as depressed following the death of her infant daughter – Her ongoing distress, instability, and anger may be disturbing for children in this age group.

Over thirteeninfo

Children over the age of thirteen are most likely to be frightened by realistic physical harm or threats, molestation or sexual assault and / or threats from aliens or the occult.

  • Nothing further of concern, however, the above may also be disturbing for some children in this age group.

Product placement

The following products are displayed or used in this movie:

  • Panasonic microwave
  • HP computer
  • Pioneer record player.

Sexual references

There are some sexual references in this movie, including:

  • Douglas gifts Candice a pair of homemade inflatable fake breasts after she complains about being flat chested – This is intended as comedic rather than sexual.

Nudity and sexual activity

There is some nudity and sexual activity in this movie, including:

  • Various teenagers kiss in the background of several scenes.
  • Candice and Douglas kiss a number of times.

Use of substances

There is some use of substances in this movie, including:

  • Adults drink champagne.
  • Candice’s mother takes prescription medication – It is implied that they are for depression (“happy pills”).

Coarse language

There is some coarse language in this movie, including:

  • Bugger Off
  • Freak
  • Idiot
  • Shut up
  • Hell
  • Moron
  • Crap.

In a nutshell

H is for Happiness is a bright and fantastical film based on the children’s novel, My Life as an Alphabet, that depicts the struggles of adults through the eyes of an odd but bright 12-year-old girl. While comedic moments exist throughout the film, the dramatic ones are far more prevalent, contrasted by sweet performances by the younger cast members, and the colourful set design. This film will likely best entertain children between 10 and 13, however, parental guidance is recommended due to the distressing themes in the film (death; family breakdown; depression).

The main message from this movie is to be kind and caring towards each other because you never know what others are dealing with.

Values in this movie that parents may wish to reinforce with their children include:

  • Finding the goodness and value in everyone.
  • Seeking help from others when in times of need.

This movie could also give parents the opportunity to discuss with their children attitudes and behaviours, and their real-life consequences, such as:

  • Children cooking unsupervised.
  • Bullying behaviour – The class bully calls Candice “SN” (special needs), and treats her like she is weird and unlikeable, despite not knowing her.
  • Mental health – Mental health is a strong theme within this film, and children’s understanding of this could be discussed by parents/adults.

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