When making a documentary about happiness, it’s easy to make an overly-preachy movie filled with clichés. At first glance, it seemed like there was only one way the plot could possibly go. However, Ted Nicolaou‘s Finding Happiness steers clear of most – if not all – of these clichés, making the movie a refreshing change from the norm.
Finding Happiness follows a fictional journalist Juliet Palmer (Elisabeth Rohm), who visits a spiritual community in California, as part of an assignment. Though she is initially skeptical about it, the Ananda World Brotherhood Village turns out to be everything it claims to be. Here, she meets several members of the community, including – but not limited to – Devadasi Forrester, David Eby, Jyotish Navak, Alex Forrester and Swami Kriyananda himself.
These interactions have a notable effect on Juliet, who was initially only at Ananda to get some scoop. She begins to take the program seriously, even adopting some of the teachings into her everyday life. By the end of the program, Juliet and the others around her notice a significant change in her personality.
Though Juliet is a fictional character, Ananda, Swami Kriyananda and the other characters are all real. In fact, Swami Kriyananda has inspired over 125 Ananda meditation groups in 19 countries!
Finding Happiness, which tells us about Ananda and Kriyananda‘s other works, is a docu-drama in its truest sense. The film gives an account of Kriyananda‘s accomplishments, while incorporating two fictional characters – Juliet and her boss. Juliet serves as a stand-in for the audience. We see Ananda through her eyes, which keeps the movie from ever seeming like an infomercial for the community.
Elisabeth Röhm is charming in her portrayal of Juliet Palmer. She brings the right amounts of cynicism and optimism to the character. In fact, her journey throughout the film is inspiring. Her charisma is matched only by David Eby, who plays himself. Eby, who is portrayed as Swami Kriyananda‘s smart and savvy disciple, is charming and persuasive. His interactions with Juliet make the movie light-hearted and interesting, keeping it from ever getting boring.
Another highlight of Finding Happiness is the cinematography. A majority of the scenes take place in Northern California’s Ananda commune. The film takes us through the scenic Ananda community, giving us breathtaking views of the location. Furthermore, these locations are shot beautifully, making the film a visual treat.
The soundtrack of the film has been composed by Swami Kriyananda himself. The music, which is subtle for the most part, showcases Kriyananda‘s musical talent. With the exception of two choir performances, the score enhances the scenes, without overpowering them.
All things considered, Finding Happiness is a docu-drama worth watching. It’s certainly not a film for casual viewing. However, documentary fans and people looking for an inspirational film will surely enjoy it.
Why should you watch this film?
Finding Happiness is a refreshing documentary. Juliet’s journey is inspirational and interesting to watch. To add to this, the movie has a remarkable soundtrack coupled with breathtaking visuals. It’s, therefore, a must-watch for any docu-drama fan.