I’ve been watching the progress of the movie “Happy New Year” for quite some time: from its original inception as a one-act play; to a crowdfunding push to turn it into a movie; through the film festival circuit; and (finally) to a physical CD that could be purchased.
I wanted this movie to succeed because the themes are so similar to that of True Surrender. The characters even face similar obstacles: PTSD and amputation.
“Happy New Year” is a fictional story, as is True Surrender. But there’s a vast difference between them.
Sergeant Lewis (like Aaron in True Surrender) has everything go wrong. Without giving too much away, at the core of his PTSD is the guilt he feels for surviving while his compatriots died.
But he also has some things going for him: a supportive ‘roommate’; other veterans who respect him; and he catches the attention of a female doctor-in-training.
He doesn’t quit; he keeps getting on those parallel bars and pushing himself. He goes out to a strip club and gets a lap dance while in his wheelchair (which ends badly). He sticks up for the VA residents. The girl kisses him. I’m thinking: okay, he’s on the way up.
But then he needs another surgery on this leg, and when he wakes, he’s an amputee. From there, to put it frankly, it was a complete downer. It does not end happily. In fact, the end is downright disturbing.
Which was likely the intent. This film had a point to make (veteran suicide); the writer wants you to be affected, to think.
Some will argue that it wouldn’t have the same impact if it had a happily-for-now ending.
Maybe it’s my basic optimism, my belief in faith and the human spirit. Maybe it was the cover photo, which shows a figure in a wheelchair with hands raised and fisted that connotes (to me) victory or, at the least, inner strength and perseverance. Perhaps it was the scenes selected for the trailer (which were the more upbeat ones). Or possibly the description that ends with “Lewis faces his fiercest battle yet” which is coincidentally similar to the description I wrote for True Surrender back in 2011 … that predisposed me to seek a triumph-of-the-spirit theme.
The fact is, I like to see characters suffer (just ask my critique readers!). But then I want to see them rise above their situation, find strength and courage deep within themselves … and triumph. That’s what I want to see in a movie even more so than a book, because a movie is about entertainment and escape.
So, if True Surrender were ever to become a movie, it might have some similar scenes (nightmares for example). But the end would be a lot different – and a lot more satisfying.