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2009-02-10 10:44

What it's about:

Pauline 'Poppy' Cross (Sally Hawkins) is the epitome of joy and contentment – she's a single, 30-year-old primary school teacher living in north London with her best friend Zoe (Alexis Zegerman). When Poppy's trusty bicycle is stolen, she decides to take driving lessons for the first time. Her driving instructor is Scott (Eddie Marsan), an emotionally disturbed, religious zealot who becomes increasingly frustrated by Poppy's joyful and optimistic attitude to life.

What we thought of it:

Sally Hawkins was robbed by the Academy Awards this year. There is no doubt that perky Poppy, the ray of sunshine she portrays in this observational comedy, is one of the strongest, most memorable characters in any movie released this past year. There is a light behind her eyes and a that permeates the screen and fills the dark corners of the world around her. There really should be more people like her.

In fact, the question that writer-director Mike Leigh appears to be asking here is 'Why aren't there more people out there like Poppy?' Of course, the movie doesn't offer any conclusive answers, but that's besides the point.

Happy-Go-Lucky is more concerned with exploring the ordinary life of an extraordinary woman – her relationships with her family and friends, her winning way with the young kids in her class, her infectious silliness as she drunkenly mucks about with her friends after a night out clubbing.

Incidentally, therein also lies the problem with this movie. Leigh has done away with the script-writing rule book, giving us a slice-of-life account, rather than a fully-formed narrative. It's refreshing as it is irksome. The story ambles along as randomly as life itself, and for an audience schooled in slick, Hollywood-ending style storytelling, this will come as a bit of a shock. Poppy, with her bright clothing and child-like manner, is also such a strong character that she is likely to incur equally strong and divisive feelings from its audience.

But what Happy-Go-Lucky offers in spades are intensely engaging moments that feel true to life and flow with such ease, the experience of watching begins to feel more voyeuristic as it unfolds.

Hawkins’ amusing scenes with Marsan are revelatory – Leigh gradually creates a hotbed of simmering tension between the two that culminates in a moment of utter chaos that needs to be seen.

While Happy-Go-Lucky is billed as a comedy, it never quite lets itself go all the way as the humour comes along incidentally. It's not for everyone - Leigh's never been the kind of filmmaker to appeal to everyone's tastes – but in Hawkins he has found the perfect collaborator in this bracingly charming character study.

Go watch it for its inspiring lead performance. Poppy isn't someone you're likely forget very easily.

A slice-of-life story about an eternally optimistic London woman named Poppy and the people in her life.

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JK 2009-02-12 10:12 AM
What a lovely performance by the actress Sally Hawkins. I was pleasantly surprised by this movie – its sweet without rotting your teeth and felt so honest – I was completely engrossed, even though the story didn’t feel like it going anywhere. Definitely worth seeing.
Peter 2009-02-18 03:17 PM
Looks like an interesting movie.

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