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:: Happy Times (Xingfu Shiguang)

Zhao (Zhao Benshan) is desperate to get married and realising that his time is nearly up he enlists the services of a dating agency in order to help find a wife. Through the agency he finally meets the woman of his dreams who agrees to marry him if he can obtain the required funds to do so. He leads her to believe that he is a wealthy hotel owner and that they will be married in no time. Desperate to raise the funds, Zhao turns to his best friend for help and together they devise a get rich quick scheme where they convert an old abandoned bus into a hotel room where young lovers can rent the room by the hour.

Appropriately called “Happy Times Hotel,” business is booming and Zhao’s betrothed seizes this opportunity to rid of her ex-husbands blind daughter, Wu Ying (Dong Jie) who lives with her and her son. Wu’s stepmother forcibly suggests that since his “hotel” is doing so well that he can find Wu a job as a masseuse and a place to stay. Zhao reluctantly agrees and figures that he can trick Wu into believing that he has a successful hotel so she can tell her stepmother all about it and convince her to marry him. Zhao takes Wu to his “Happy Times Hotel” only to find that developers in the area are clearing it out to be destroyed. On order to keep up the charade Zhao houses Wu in his small apartment explaining that is it an employees place that she can stay in, Zhao himself sleeps at an abandoned factory. During this time the friendship and bond between the two develops and Zhao learns that Wu’s stepmother and step brother are cruel to her and that she only stays with them as a promise to her father, as he will come and get her when he has enough money. Zhao and his friends decide to mock up another hotel, complete with fake street sounds and a massage room where Wu can work.

After reading Wu’s fathers letter he realises that he is unable to come and get her, he sends his friends in as customers and gives them what little money he earns to tip her and make her happy to save enough money to live with her father. Zhao visits Wu’s stepmother to find her apartment lavishly furnished and in the arms of another man whom she claims is her new husband, defeated he decides it’s time to come clean to Wu about the hotel and her father. In a moving conclusion Wu and Zhao part company which each realising the love they have for one another.

Zhang Yimou, an acclaimed director who has enjoyed success with many of his films, directs Happy Times. Winning such prestigious awards such as the Berlin, Venice, Cannes and Sundance film festivals and also nominated for Academy Awards. Written by Gai Zi adapted from Mo Yan’s novella, the film delves into these characters lives and shows us the real financial struggles of the modern society in China, demonstrated so poignantly by Zhao Benshan’s perfect combination of comedic and dramatic performance. A modern day twist on Cinderella with the evil stepmother and stepbrother and Zhao playing the role of the fairytale father than Wu longs to be reunited with. Happy Times contains plenty of highs and lows intricately woven together to create a beautiful story that can be enjoyed by all.