In Have A Nice Day, a young man steals money from the mob to pay for his girlfriend’s plastic surgery. The film was set to be released at last year’s Annecy Animation Festival but got pulled due to pressure from the Chinese government.
Director Liu Jian expressed in interviews that any political controversy was unintentional and his goal was only to depict characters from rural communities interacting with modern life. China’s Communist Party may have unintentionally done the film a favor. By trying to censor Have A Nice Day, more audiences are clamoring to see what all the fuss is about.
The film was shot in live action then rotoscoped into low-frame-rate animation. The images are detailed but quite static, and any movement is as jarring as nails on a chalkboard. These polarizing artistic decisions left some viewers feeling it would have been better as a live action film.
Have A Nice Day is pretty tame when compared to other crime movies. The sex and violence aren’t explicit, and I don’t even recall any drug use. Why did this seemingly insignificant film disturb the Chinese government enough to ban it? There were some conversations that I suspect crossed a line for the authorities.
One character gives a monologue about there being three levels of freedom and implies that true freedom is the ability to move between the levels. Ultimately, the key to power and freedom, for the characters, is money.
In terms of entertainment value, Have A Nice Day isn’t a “pleasant” watch but it is fascinating. When I exited the theater, I spoke with my fellow patrons about the film for over half an hour. America is slowly becoming more like China, a country that has been our competitor in industry and education for decades. The United States’ obsession with freedom, nationalism, and money is eerily reflected in Have A Nice Day. If we are not vigilant, this could become our future.
Have A Nice Day is available to view now online.