Alice Rohrwacher’s latest, Happy as Lazzaro, is a unique delight that continuously evolves over the course of its 2+ hour runtime. The less you know going in, the more rewarding the experience is, so to avoid spoiling a major turn (though even headlines for other reviews don’t offer the same consideration), I’ll describe the film simply as a fable centered on our titular character Lazzaro, whose gleeful ignorance and unconditional loyalty makes him both a target for manipulation and an inspiration those closest to him.
Happy as Lazzaro won the Prix du scenario (Best Screenplay) at the Cannes Film Festival and it’s easy to see why. The film’s structure is magnificent. Just when you think you’ve figured out where it’s going, the film shifts direction entirely. As with Rohrwacher’s last film, The Wonders, Lazzaro’s world is filled with well-drawn supporting characters and flush with thematic depth, exploring topics of poverty, industrialization, class, and subjugation.
The film offers no easy answers and a suitably ambiguous ending will likely be met with divisive reaction, but Rohrwacher has made her perspective clear. Though his circumstances and environment are far more dangerous, Lazzaro’s simplicity and ability to see the best in people makes him an invaluable asset to society, bringing to mind Peter Sellers’ character Chance in Hal Ashby’s Being There.
The second half of the film is ripe with thematic depth and thought-provoking social commentary, especially the ending, but it’s best to avoid reading anything about the film until you can see it for yourself, especially considering it will be widely available soon. Part comedy, part drama, part social commentary, and part fable, Happy as Lazzaro is a wild, energetic, and moving portrait of a young man who won’t be corrupted by the chaotic world around him.
Happy as Lazzaro will be available for streaming on November 30th on Netflix.