Happiness for Beginners Review: A Heartfelt Journey of Love, Growth, and Self-Discovery

Happiness for Beginners, directed by Vicky Wight and based on the novel of the same name by Katherine Center, is a poignant and heartwarming tale of one woman’s transformative journey through the Appalachian Trail. The film takes us on a deeply emotional and in-depth exploration of love, loss, and the courage to face life head-on.

The Good:

At the heart of the story is Helen, brilliantly portrayed by Ellie Kemper, a divorcée seeking to find herself again after a painful separation. Her decision to embark on an Appalachian Trail survivalist course serves as a metaphor for her own survival and rebirth. The night before her adventure, she encounters her brother Duncan’s best friend, Jake, setting the stage for a captivating emotional dynamic between the two characters.

Throughout the film, flashbacks offer glimpses of Helen’s past, including her failed wedding, and her complex relationships with her ex-husband Mike, brother Duncan, and lifelong friend Jake. These flashbacks add depth to her character, showcasing her vulnerabilities, regrets, and moments of happiness.

As Helen sets off on her hike, we are introduced to the other participants, each with their own unique stories and struggles. The film skillfully weaves together their individual journeys, creating a beautiful tapestry of human connections and growth. Beckett, the young guide, provides a steady and wise presence, while Helen’s tentmate Windy brings a refreshing dose of positivity, even if sometimes bordering on naivety.

The heart of Happiness for Beginners lies in the chemistry between Helen and Jake, played impeccably by Kemper and Luke Grimes. Their shared history, unspoken feelings, and the emotional baggage they both carry makes for an engaging and captivating on-screen relationship. The film does an excellent job of gradually building their connection, teasing the audience with hints of something deeper simmering beneath the surface.

As the group faces challenges and hardships along the trail, they learn valuable lessons about teamwork, resilience, and the strength that comes from supporting one another. The lush cinematography beautifully captures the majestic landscapes of the Appalachian Trail, serving as a metaphor for the character’s own inner journeys.

One of the film’s strengths lies in its portrayal of human imperfections and vulnerabilities. Helen’s self-doubt and fear of repeating past mistakes make her journey all the more relatable and endearing. Jake’s inner struggle with his degenerative eye disease adds another layer of complexity to his character, showcasing the harsh realities of life’s unpredictability.

Vicky Wight‘s direction deserves praise for bringing out authentic performances from the cast and masterfully balancing the film’s emotional depth with moments of light-heartedness. The script, adapted from Katherine Center’s novel, shines through in its ability to tug at the heartstrings without resorting to clichés or melodrama.

At its core, Happiness for Beginners is a story of self-discovery, healing, and the courage to embrace life’s uncertainties. It serves as a reminder that happiness is not a destination but a journey filled with ups and downs, and it is the people we meet along the way that truly shape our experiences.

The Bad:

While the film excels in its emotional storytelling, it does have some minor flaws. At times, certain subplots feel rushed, leaving the audience longing for more exploration. Additionally, the film’s ending, while heartwarming, may come across as a bit too tidy for some viewers.

Also, it’s an extremely predictable movie with plot elements that you can see coming a mile away. As a matter of fact, it’s safe to say that nearly everyone who watches this movie will be able to see where it will eventually end after just watching the first five minutes alone.

But, even still, that doesn’t make the film bad or anything – just heavily predictable.


Happiness for Beginners is a touching and sincere film that celebrates the human spirit’s resilience and capacity for love. With powerful performances, breathtaking visuals, and a heartfelt narrative, it takes its audience on an unforgettable journey of self-discovery and the pursuit of happiness. While it may not be without its flaws, its heartfelt message lingers, leaving viewers with a renewed appreciation for life’s simple joys and the connections we make along the way.

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  • Acting - 8/10
  • Cinematography/Visual Effects - 7/10
  • Plot/Screenplay - 5/10
  • Setting/Theme - 6/10
  • Watchability - 8/10
  • Rewatchability - 7/10
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About Caillou Pettis

Caillou Pettis is a professional film critic and journalist as well as the author of While You Sleep, The Inspiring World of Horror: The Movies That Influenced Generations, and co-author of Out of Time: True Paranormal Encounters. He has been writing in the entertainment industry for over seven and a half years professionally. Throughout the years, he has written articles for publications including Gold Derby, Exclaim!, CBR, Awards Radar, Awards Watch, Flickering Myth, BRWC, Starburst Magazine, Punch Drunk Critics, Mediaversity Reviews, Vinyl Chapters, Northern Transmissions, and Beats Per Minute.