Hannah Ha Ha opens on a serene moment between a father and daughter as a crackling bonfire fills the center of the frame. From this very first scene, writer-director duo Joshua Pikovsky & Jordan Tetewsky establish both a literal and metaphorical warmth to their debut feature. This sincerity is perhaps most emblematic in the film’s slightly hazy cinematography, which uses soft, warm lighting to project the cinematic equivalent of a warm hug. In fact, Hannah Ha Ha feels like a highly personal memory brought back to life.
The fond remembrance that is created through the frame perfectly ties into how the film narratively challenges the archaic pathway to adulthood. Hannah Ha Ha follows Hannah (Hannah Lee Thompson), a young woman who enjoys caring for her father (Avram Tetewsky) and completing odds jobs around a local farm. However, with her 26th birthday fast approaching, Hannah is pressured by her brother Paul (Roger Mancusi) to find a “real job” that has health care benefits.
Hannah’s journey to transition into “adulthood” coincides with a departure of the warm hues of the cinematography, symbolizing her changing emotional state. Hannah Ha Ha has such a naturalistic style (especially during Hannah’s job search), that it occasionally feels like Pikovsky & Tetewksy have crafted an cinéma vérité documentary instead of a work of narrative fiction. Considering the overwhelming sense of authenticity throughout the feature, the actual dialogue occasionally stands out for being too on the nose. Particularly, the argumentative moments between Paul and Hannah feel stilted and unnatural.
Despite an somewhat constrained screenplay, Hannah Ha Ha is a deft display in the plethora of career pathways that are possible for our current generation. Pikovsky & Tetewksy’s ability to share that sentiment while still crafting a film that is heart-warming and earnest proves that unlike like their film’s title, their directorial talent is no laughing matter.
The Silver Lining
The overall sound design of Hannah Ha Ha perfectly meshes with feelings of memory that are invoked visually. Throughout much of the film, the sound can be easily overlooked each individual audible element somewhat blends together. However, the more reflective moments of Hannah’s journey are marked by the boisterous roar of a lawnmower’s engine or the casual strumming of her guitar. These sounds stand out from the crowd and call attention to the film’s most important sequences.
Hannah Ha Ha is part of Slamdance’s 2022 Narrative Feature lineup. To purchase your pass to see this and every other Slamdance film (for only $10), please click here.