Dir. Jason Winer, USA, 2019, 97 min.

This comedy starring Martin Freeman follows a man named Charlie suffering from cataplexy. The narcolepsy-related condition causes him to suddenly fall asleep when experiencing strong emotions. Charlie’s trigger is joy, so he clings to what makes him somewhat miserable to keep himself awake. 

When Charlie meets a beautiful woman named Francesca, he fears falling in love. He decides to keep himself at a slight distance, instead setting her up with his brother, played by UNC School of the Arts alum Jake Lacy. The situation leads to a wide array of emotional chaos and romantic blunders.

The film combines the witty jokes of a rom-com with a touch of dark, dry humor. The mix keeps the audience wondering where Charlie will end up, or whether or not he will continue to deprive himself of positive emotions. The film connects its characters through these normal situations upheaved by the unpredictable amount of happiness Charlie can handle without passing out. His self-restraint possesses subtle tragedy to it, and it is as much a battle of Charlie versus his condition as it is a battle of Charlie versus himself. 

It bounces between lightheartedness and seriousness in such a way that feels genuine, as Charlie confronts where he ends and his cataplexy self-treatment ends. 

Ode to Joy explores the complications of love, true happiness and life’s little moments. 

Ode to Joy screens on Thursday at 7 p.m. at SECCA.

— SE

You may also enjoy these other Riverrun 2019 reviews:

Lupe: This drama centers of a transgender protagonist who, while searching for their sibling, also searches for their true identity.

A Scientist’s Guide to Living and Dying: This drama, co-directed by and starring UNC School of the Arts alum Nitzan Mager, centers on a scientist named Amy, played by Mager, as she mourns the loss of her husband Chris while preparing to give birth to his child.

Find the full list of reviews here.

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