Happiness for Beginners

Happiness for Beginners

Film Netflix
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Happiness for Beginners follows recently divorced Helen as she embarks on a wilderness survival course in a bid to shake up her life. A sweet and understated romcom.

In the world of streaming, being surprised by a new addition is a welcome break from the predictability of most of the content being churned out today.

Happiness for Beginners is one of those rare films that doesn't scream romcom. Instead, it slots perfectly into the ‘nice' category and while that might seem trivial, nice is very underrated these days.

Devoid of all the usual tropes and cliches, Happiness for Beginners manages to hit that sweet spot of being both relatable and entertaining.

Starring Ellie Kemper and Luke Grimes, and directed by Vicky Wight, this is a lovely film and perfect for a cosy night in.

What Is Happiness for Beginners About?

Divorcée Helen is ready for a change. Realising that her life has stalled a little, she decides to embark on a ‘beginners' Appalachian Trail survivalist course.

Arriving at the designated Connecticut motel, Helen joins the rag-tag hiking group, made up of quirky and fun characters. As the guide Beckett briefs them, Helen is dismayed to find she's one of the older members, a fact cheekily highlighted by a fellow hiker, Hugh.

Her surprise doubles when Jake, her brother's best friend, introduces himself as a participant. Although flustered, she firmly requests that Jake not acknowledge their history during the trip.

As the trek begins, various challenges ensue. Learning to create a bear hang, blisters on feet, peeing outside. Nothing too serious but enough to test Helen's mettle and provide a few laughs for the viewer. As the hike continues, Helen relaxes a bit more around her fellow hikers and opens up about her struggles.

During a moment of vulnerability, Helen confides in Jake about her traumatic past involving the tragic drowning of her middle brother, which led to the disintegration of her family.

So can she move on from her past and will the journey on the trail finally be the push she needs to shake up her life?

Happiness for Beginners Official Trailer

Is Happiness for Beginners Worth Watching?

The movie is based on the novel Happiness for Beginners by Katherine Center who also co-wrote the screenplay. I confess that I have never read the book so have no idea if the film is a faithful adaptation.

However, what I will say is that thankfully this version doesn't try too hard to be something it is not. It is a simple story about hope and self-discovery. Helen is a normal woman who simply decides to do something completely out of her comfort zone in a bid to add some excitement to her life.

In this respect, it succeeds and despite its entirely predictable ending, it is still a pleasant movie to watch.

Ellie Kemper is excellent as Helen and the chemistry with Luke Grimes really does pop off the screen. But kudos must be given to the rest of the cast who add the much-needed fun and injection of comedy, especially Nico Santos as Hugh.

If there's one solid takeaway from this Netflix film it's that everybody has their problems. Nobody's life is perfect and when we judge a book by its cover we are doing both them and ourselves a disservice.

Cast Of Happiness for Beginners Movie

Ellie Kemper (Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt) as Helen

Luke Grimes (El Camino Christmas) as Jake

Nico Santos (Superstore) as Hugh

Blythe Danner as Gigi, Helen's grandmother who raised her

Ben Cook as Beckett, the survival guide

Shayvawn Webster as Windy

Esteban Benito as Mason

Gus Birney as Kaylee

Julia Shiplett as Sue

Alexander Koch as Duncan, Helen's brother


  • Understated RomCom
  • Relatable Lead Character
  • Avoids All The Usual Tropes And Cliches


  • Pleasant But Nothing Really Happens
  • Totally Predictable Ending


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