The Secret Power of Saying 'I Love You'


Mr. Happy Man is the true story of 88-year-old Johnny Barnes, who spends hours each morning wishing Bermuda's commuters well. "From twenty to four to ten [a.m.], I stand on the corner and just greet people and let them know that life is sweet, life is beautiful -- no matter what happens in life, it's always sweet to be alive," Barnes explains in the film. Directed by Matt Morris, this short documentary imparts a little slice of that feeling. As Jason Sondhi put it in his review for Short of the Week, "What’s fascinating about the film to me is that the narrative arc occurred within myself rather than within the film ... through the sheer relentless optimism and good-feeling this film exudes, my cynicism fades, until I feel like I genuinely care about Johnny and his wellbeing like everyone else in Bermuda." Morris talks about the making of the film, and what Johnny's up to now, in a brief interview below. 

The Atlantic: How did you find this story and decide to tell it? 

Matt Morris: I found Johnny Barnes while browsing the photo sharing website Flickr. I came across a photo someone had taken of Johnny while on vacation in Bermuda and the caption underneath the photo explained his morning ritual of waving and blowing kisses to people, shouting "Good morning!" and "I love you!" I couldn't believe it. Once I found out how dedicated he was to this pursuit of sharing love and happiness, I knew I had to make a film about him. 

Where is Johnny Barnes now? 

Johnny is turning 89 this summer and he's as healthy as ever, still to be found every morning at Crow Lane from four to ten a.m. I call him on the phone every now and again to chat about his mornings at the roundabout and get news on how his garden is growing! I've got a Facebook page that I like to keep updated with my conversations with Johnny. 

What's next for you?

Right now I'm working on a few things, including a short documentary about a lounge singing duo in Winter Park, Florida. Unfortunately one of the main characters in the film passed away last week, so I'm still processing that personally as well as figuring out how it will shape the film.

For more films by Matt Morris, visit

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Kasia Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg is the executive producer for video at The AtlanticMore

Cieplak-Mayr von Baldegg joined The Atlantic in 2011 to launch its video channel and, in 2013, create its in-house video production department. She leads the development and production of original documentaries, interviews, and other video content for The Atlantic. Previously, she worked as a producer at Al Gore’s Current TV and as a content strategist and documentary producer in San Francisco. She studied filmmaking and digital media at Harvard University.
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