WHAT'S IT ALL ABOUT?
Happenstance is a film that floats along on a tide of coincidence and fate, glimpsing portentous meetings and chance scenarios, and culminating in a kind of divine sense of balance. On the surface, it's an enjoyable and cleverly written story, but the film suffers from an essential lack of characterization. In short, Happenstance has an intricate brain but lacks heart.
As Irene (Audrey Tautou of Amelie) rides the train to her sales job, she finds herself almost reluctantly engaged in conversation with an amateur fortune-teller, who tells her that she will find true love by the end of the day. Irene shrugs off the proclamation, but soon events involving other characters begin ricocheting off each other in a cause-and-effect whirlwind that inevitably leads back to Irene and her foretold love. It's a grand domino effect involving the full moon, a tossed shoe, a broken marriage, a stolen coffee maker, and a couple of liars. Is the world careening toward one woman's destiny?
It's fun to watch Happenstance, but soon you get the nagging feeling that the characters are ciphers, blank slates that are simply moving to the machinations of fate. You never get the feeling of real emotion overtaking these characters, and the story suffers because of this emotional void. Happenstance wants to be magical—and to be sure, it's intricate and will bring a smile to your face—but the film never overcomes its fatal flaw. Even in the end, when the film should be plucking your heartstrings, Happenstance makes do with a shrug.
HOW'S IT LOOK?
New Yorker Video presents Happenstance in a surprisingly fine anamorphic-widescreen transfer of the film's original 1.85:1 aspect ratio. I was startled by the clarity of the image and the background detail. However, at times, the film suffers from digital artifacting in backgrounds. It's not regularly distracting, but it's there. Colors seem natural though subdued.
HOW'S IT SOUND?
The DVD contains the original French stereo soundtrack, and the presentation gets the job done. Dialog is clear and accurate. The disc includes English subtitles.
WHAT ELSE IS THERE?
Only the film's theatrical trailer.
WHAT'S LEFT TO SAY?
Happenstance is definitely worth seeing, particularly for the fabulously lovely Audrey Tautou. Even without her presence, I would recommend the film as an enjoyable collection of twists of fate.