Heartfelt tales about women are always fun to watch. It is not that often that we get to watch female-centric films that were made with the right intention. They talk about their pain, drawbacks, and regrets as individuals, and it allows the viewers to comprehend the kind of burden most women live with till their last breath. My Happy Ending, directed by Sharon Maymon and Tal Granit, brings to you four women from different backgrounds with one goal in mind.
Julia is in the hospital
My Happy Ending begins with Julia Roth, once a successful actress who ruled Hollywood, checking into a small clinic outside of London because she has been diagnosed with colon cancer. On the day of the treatment, she runs into three women: Mikey, Judy, and Imaan, who themselves are struggling with the same ailment. Julia feels the need to hide her identity, and even though she has the ailment, her request for a private room is denied. Julia comes from a field where she is supposed to stay behind the veil when off the screen because they do not speak about their private lives.
Actresses like Julia are only okay with being recognized when they are popular and at the peak of their careers. The three women recognizing her at this juncture of her life brings out plenty of insecurities. Self-doubt and the shame of facing people are common feelings among actresses who are supposed to be presented in a certain way to the public and the media. In the entertainment world, it is always women who are expected to be perfect and are always questioned about vanity. In the 21st century, a lot of aspects when it comes to actresses, female models, and athletes have not changed. This is what My Happy Ending throws light on because she is not at the top of her game, and she would appreciate being treated in seclusion as per her wishes.
Julia’s three new friends
The three women recognize her, and out of the three, Judy comes across as a blunt person because of her age. Her candid words make Julia decide not to clash with women unnecessarily. Julia’s state of mind is understandable because all of this is new for her, and she probably had bigger plans for the day and the coming months. This cancer came as a shock to her body, and it will only take time to process. She decides to hang out with the three of them in the hope some of their positivity will rub off on her and reduce her self-doubt tendencies. Julia is just like any other woman out there who is suffering from life-threatening ailments. There is confusion and fear about the future, fear of being a burden to the family, and a career that will come to a standstill. Women, most of the time, have a lot to lose in such matters.
Imaan, Mikey, and Judy come once a week for their chemo treatment, and so far, they have gotten used to the routine around it. Julia is neither sad nor happy to see these women take this disease in their stride because they are aware any day could be their last day, and they make the best of what they have in hand. The women are not blithely optimistic, as shown in many films that are about cancer patients. Here, the writers have made sure to retain the realistic aspect at the forefront for the characters to understand the gravity of the situation and not be excessively positive.
These three women try to make Julia comfortable by taking her to each of their havens, or as they call it, ‘vacations’. A place they want to be right now rather than getting their chemotherapy done. Judy takes them to a forest, Mikey takes them to a party, and Imaan takes them to the comfort of her home, where she is happy with her children and husband. The writers, through this make-believe set, allow the viewers to get a grasp of the pain all of them are being subjected to through no fault of their own. By bringing this paradise into the picture, the writers also trudged with the genres of fantasy and magical realism. By allowing Julia to live a different version of life, the subplot was introduced to showcase the change of heart that Julia will go through on this one-day trip to the clinic. It is natural for people to have a change of heart as they are introduced to different aspects of life.
Ending Explained: Why is Julia not willing to continue her chemotherapy?
Julia also has a manager Nancy who was shaken upon hearing the cancer news, and she was the first one to come by her side. Nancy comes across as her best friend, agony aunt, casting agent, and sister, who quickly goes into a danger control mode because she does not want Julia to lose any momentum career-wise if her health is fine. Nancy’s concerns are genuine because, as a friend, she would want Julia to be active on screen and on stage if her health permits. It will only make sense to keep the lady relevant and maybe talk about her cancer journey in the media so that she remains the talk of the town. Julia would rather go through her treatment privately, away from the media’s attention, because this is something she is embarrassed of, and she is not keen on opening up about her struggles. Julia has different personas that she carries within her, and this is a common aspect among actors in the cinema industry, they lead two different lives because they have an image to maintain.
As Julia slowly opens up to the three women, she is entertained by the idea of exploring her happy place. She mentioned wanting to eat 25 years’ worth of carbs. This is the case with women in the entertainment industry who have severe body image issues, and they tend to follow strict diets to remain perfect. As they hold hands to go into the perfect world of Julia’s ‘vacation’. She presents three scenarios, and one of them happens to be a large table that has all the good things that Julia has never eaten in all these years. It is the last ‘vacation’ that shakes Julia up because she is happy to see her daughter getting married but horrified to see a sick version of herself. Julia goes through a metamorphosis after taking a hard look at the mirror which comes across as her future self. This changes everything from here on.
Julia had so far heard of cancer relapsing in the three women around her, and from the doctor, she learned about the advanced stage of her cancer. These two scenarios, along with Julia’s ‘vacation’ vision, sent her into a spiral about what she would become if she chose to continue chemotherapy. It would seem there was no one in her family or immediate friends’ circle who suffered from cancer, and not knowing about the subject horrified Julia. Even though she has examples of three women losing their hair, they are still fighting the fight and living longer than the doctors predicted.
Julia was quick to inform the three women, Nancy, and Dr. Hanson, about her decision to terminate her chemotherapy with immediate effect because she would rather live with the pain of her cancer, which was in its last stage, than prolong her life span by a year or two, and it will work only if her body responds to the treatment. Julia was initially going through a crisis of sorts, but right now, she is convinced the treatment will not affect her, even though Nancy, the doctor, and the three others try to convince her otherwise.
The doctor is trying to prolong her life, and Nancy is also hoping Julia will recover after the treatment, which will give the actress more traction as a performer. Giving it sometime also allows the possibility of many breakthrough drugs that could come out to help in the span of one to two years, which will further extend her life. Julia has her daughter’s wedding to look forward to, and she does not intend to ruin it by talking about herself. Julia believes she is not keen on injecting any needles or a lot of drugs into her body. It might come across as selfish, but it is her choice not to pursue chemotherapy at all. Her decision makes a whole lot of sense because the actress senses this is the end of her life, and she wants to exit this world as per her choice.
Julia, in a few hours, has become self-aware of what she wants, even though from her previous conversation, it is easy to conclude that she is leading a superficial life dictated by the unwritten rules for a celebrity like her. She cannot let that dictate her death as well. Her words resonate with everyone in the room, including Doctor Hanson, and as per her wish, the chemotherapy is discontinued immediately. My Happy Ending ends with Julia leaving the hospital on an elated note because she has done something for her happiness, and she believes she will stick to it till her last breath.