Review: Agent of Happiness (Sundance 2024)


Title: Agent of Happiness
MPAA Rating: Not Yet Rated
Director: Arun Bhattarai, Dorottya Zurbo
Starring: Amber Kumar Gurung
Runtime: 1 hr 34 mins

What it is: A documentary about a pair of Bhutanese government surveyors going on a cross country trip to survey the citizens of Bhutan about their levels of happiness. In the meanwhile, the main surveyor we follow, Amber, analyzes his own life and what it means to be happy.

What We Think: OK, let’s get the elephant out of the way immediately: I was not super into this documentary. I did not particularly care for the pacing. It was interesting learning about the lives of Bhutanese people and Bhutan, a country I knew little to nothing about. Some of the real life stories were truly touching, in particular the beautiful relationship between a transwoman and her mom. Biggest thing that this film needed I think? I think the editing needed to be way tighter. It felt very loose, not cohesive, and the way it was paced was extremely slow. There are ways to successfully do documentaries without narration. I don’t think this documentary was one of them. I respect that the filmmakers spent five years making this piece and I respect the personal stories of each one of the subjects; however, I feel like this documentary suffered from a lack of focus. In the theater I kept asking myself “is the movie over now?” a few times and that is never a good sign in terms of pacing. It definitely needed some fat trimmed to make it more poignant and impactful. I do wonder if the time spent on this project made the filmmakers lose focus a little simply because they had so much time to work on this. Interesting subject matter, poor execution. If edited a little tighter, this could’ve been a very insightful documentary; however, poor pacing really affected my personal enjoyment of the film.

Our Grade: C, I respect the hard work that went into making this film, however, it was not a film for me. I did see people in the theater enjoying it, so it’s possible it’s merely a matter of taste; however, the pacing really brought this movie down for me. If it weren’t for the subjects the movie focused on and the fact that it was educational on what life was like in Bhutan, this film might’ve scored lower.

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