When you think about Peter Pan, the wildest dreams of childhood emerge. The immortalised youth, the adventures in Neverland and embarking on epic quests against adults and pirates alike. People are probably more akin to the Disney romp that made you believe you could fly, but the JM Barrie novella has inspired countless of productions, stories and creativity – artists who want to reimagine the intriguing, if albeit sinister (well, the original anyway) story. What Layke Anderson’ has done, with his thrilling and evocative short Happy Thoughts is give the Peter Pan cannon a visceral and powerful modern era tone that transcends eras.
As screened at last night’s Underwire Film Festival; the story follows three people, embroiled inside a bitter love story where the man at the centre is cursed by an urge to be free and fly away from his surroundings. A devastating event leaves two women embroiled in a heated moment, both having lost a key element to their love and emotion.
Told non-linear, through stirring imagery and flashbacks that entwine like Peter and Wendy upon the bedsit mattress, Happy Thoughts becomes this enthralling short that captures both the innocence and the maturity of growth. Splice with quotes and moments from the original story, this reimagining is strong and hits a vein of emotion that simmers with sheltered love and a mind encased in tragedy. Telling the tale through dreamlike memories as a bitter Wendy and Tinkerbell battle it out in words – enticing a troubled power play between the pair – you are embroiled in the emotive backbone of jealousy and pain. As an adult Wendy regrets, an ever angry Tink lashes out against her. With this verbose fight, combined with these moving montages of love with Peter and love without him, this is a striking capture of the Peter Pan tale. There are even little aesthetic details such as a thimble ring honouring the story.
Happy Thoughts has a gritty modern grip that is both intelligent and beautiful, soaring with this absorbing score by Tom Green and gorgeous cinematography. As quotes and nods to Peter Pan fill the atmosphere, we are left to wonder whether childhood is best left in the past or whether taking it through you to adulthood is vital. Nevertheless, Happy Thoughts is a stunning piece of short cinema with compelling centric performances to bring new life into classic characters.
Happy Thoughts is making its way around some festival circuits. UnderWire Festival continues all this week.