Happy New Year: Film Review

Veterans'-hospital drama offers sadly familiar truths.

K. Lorrel Manning adapts his Off-Broadway play (and the short film it inspired) about a wounded vet's difficult recovery.

A familiar tale of a wounded vet's attempt to re-enter the world he left behind, K. Lorrel Manning's Happy New Year comes to the screen from the stage and feels like it. Sincere performances and well-intentioned scripting should help it with vets eager to see their stories told on-screen, but the film's dreary, secondhand feel is hard to overcome.

Michael Cuomo plays Staff Sgt. Cole Lewis, a physical rehab patient shipped for vague reasons to a hospital dealing with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder patients. Resentful of being tossed in with "crazies" when he feels he's about well enough to go home, he soon finds common cause with fellow vets in a kind of watered-down Cuckoo's Nest setting where an attractive doctor in training (Monique Gabriela Curnen) is the staff's only glimmer of humanity.

In between leading his fellow patients in some morale-boosting misbehavior, Lewis proves to be dealing with some post-combat trauma, or at least guilt, of his own. The revelation is hardly a surprise, nor are the physical setbacks he suffers. The plot's abrupt resolution, though (not to mention the cheap, grafted-on irony of the film's title), feel more like a message-delivering dramatic exercise than a lived tragedy.

Production Company: One Light Left
Cast: Michael Cuomo, J.D. Williams, Monique Gabriela Curnen, Jose Yenque, David Fonteno, Wilmer Calderon, Will Rogers, Noah Mills
Director-Screenwriter: K. Lorrel Manning
Producers: Michael Cuomo, Karl Jacob, Victoria Hay, Tom Stein, K. Lorrel Manning
Executive producers: Iain Smith, Whitney Arcaro, Terrence Gray
Director of photography: Soopum Sohn
Production designer: Katherine Rusch
Music: Paul Brill
Costume designer: Tiffany Jordan
Editor: William Miller
No rating, 104 minutes