Happenstance (2000)

Genres - Comedy Drama  |   Sub-Genres - Ensemble Film, Comedy of Manners, Romantic Drama, Urban Drama  |   Release Date - Nov 21, 2001 (USA - Limited)  |   Run Time - 90 min.  |   Countries - France   |   MPAA Rating - R
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Review by Sarah Sloboda

The premise of a seemingly trivial event happening for reasons to be determined by the succession of events that follows it is hardly a revelation in filmmaking. 1998's Sliding Doors (starring Gwyneth Paltrow) serves as another example of a film whose basis is the gimmick of event-interrelation. Happenstance entangles so many occurrences into that gimmick, the results are truly dizzying. Distracted from any one particular story line by the mental preoccupation of trying to connect it with the rest, it is difficult not to feel as if you are completing a crossword puzzle, rather than watching a film. Characters earn their import by their relation to the events in the film -- none of them is fleshed out enough to earn much audience empathy -- and Amélie fans looking for more Audrey Tautou will be thrilled with little more than her adorable face. While performances do not detract from the film, they do not add much to it either, as the way in which a shopping bag left in the Metro relates to sand falling from the sky is paramount to any individual acting performance. An interesting experiment in coincidence, Happenstance would perhaps be best qualified for the action genre, as character convictions come into play seldom, and the next random step in the progression of the story always seems to come in just the right moment. It never quite lives up to its romantic comedy classification, as there is little at stake for the characters. Being brought together by acts of "natural" serendipity makes closure on the three different love-story lines unnecessary -- but it is not as if the film provides it.