Soho Horror: Breathing Happy (2022)

Director: Shane Brady

Running Time: 93 Minutes

Starring: Shane Brady, Katelyn Nacon, June Carryl, John D'Aquino, Augie Duke, Brittney Escalante, Hugh Scott, Owen Atlas, Mia Castillo, EVee White, Sarah Bolger, Justin Benson, Aaron Moorhead, Jim O'Heir, Patrick Brady, Landon Ashworth, Jeremy Harlin, Phil Esposito

Serving as writer, director, and star, Shane Brady makes his feature directorial debut with this fantastic fever dream through addiction and sleight-of-hand magic. The story follows Dylan (Brady), a drug-addict spending the holidays alone as he awaits Christmas Day, which marks one-year of him being sober. That won't be easy when his demons arrive like the Ghost of Christmas Past, bringing decades of guilt-laced memories tempting him to relapse while reminding him of the family he misses.

Through this visually and narratively stunning tale, Dylan grapples with his self-destructive streak as he spends the holidays without his loved ones. Brady effectively conveys the character's inner struggles, as he feels helpless to his grief and without control of his life. He misses those who made life wonderful after his adoption, and understands a serious recalibration is needed for him. As the tale places viewers in Dylan's mind, things become surreal as sudden cuts grant the experience of skipping through memories, while voices in the mind are heard delivering overlapping insults.

Memories are revealed through the prism of home-videos, showing Dylan lapsing into addiction and the effect it has on his worried family across multiple instances. The broken looks on his loved-ones faces are unforgettable, ranging from quiet sadness to explosive anger as they are shattered by drug-abuse while Dylan makes excuses. Brady exceptionally highlights the impact of this addiction, never forgetting how much everybody involved has been hurt.

Offering a much-needed break from this weighty tale is some needed humour, as the voice roles provide wonderful laughs during a call to the police department and arguments between sentient doors. It offers a nice breather during the story, while never undercutting the seriousness of Dylan's journey. As he faces his past across this night, a happy ending is achievable so long as he stops looking back and keeps on going. Stay through the credits for a heartfelt epilogue to this magnificent work.

Breathing Happy made its UK Premiere at Soho Horror Film Festival. It was also play during SoHoHo Horror Fest online on 17th December.