Mike Leigh, who’s helmed some highly acclaimed films such as “Vera Drake” and “Secrets & Lies” brings to life the story of pessimist free, Poppy in “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Leigh’s script and direction never misses a beat, as he manages to offer up a endearing, chatter-box, optimistic character without ever making you sick of her continuously sunny views of the world.
“Happy-Go-Lucky” isn’t a story like you normally prepare for when sitting down to watch a film, which is partially what makes it so enjoyable, but rather it’s a brief glimpse into the life of someone who isn’t deterred by anything. The plot isn’t heavy with twists and turns, in fact there’s very little plot at all, but what this film lacks in detailed storylines, it certainly makes up for with memorable characters, brilliant dialogue, and unforgettable encounters.
“Happy-Go-Lucky” follows Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an elementary school teacher who doesn’t try and be what the world expects of her, but instead aspires to be happy in every single moment. While her younger sister is getting ready to have a baby, has a mortgage and a pension, 30 year old Poppy could care less about confining her life by doing what everyone thinks she should.
Poppy has other things to keep her busy like trampoline classes, long walks, flamenco dancing, and learning how to drive. Poppy spends time with her best friend Zoë (Alexis Zegerman), sister Alice (Kate O‘Flynn) and her new love interest. While it may seem like the daily events of a young woman wouldn’t make for the most interesting film, you’ll be surprised at how engaging the film really is and how much you care about Poppy’s life.
Some of the more interesting parts of the film take place in the vehicle where Poppy is learning how to drive from instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan). When Poppy takes up learning how to drive after someone steals her bicycle (which, of course, doesn’t upset her except for the fact that she didn’t get to say goodbye to her bike that’s “flown the nest now”), her cheerfulness is put to the test by angry, bitter and still remarkably fragile Scott.
Poppy tries to understand him and tries to get him to lighten up a little, but he’s more focused on his opinions of what’s wrong with the world, as well as Poppy driving in her high-heel boots. Poppy’s time with Scott helps her reach out to her students more in a subplot that adds a nice layer that keeps the film and Poppy grounded.
Watching “Happy-Go-Lucky” you can’t help but want to be a little less irritated by the day-to-day annoyances that so often feel overwhelming or at least aggravating. The happier parts of the film never feel too sugary, and the emotional moments are so engaging that you can’t help but lose yourself to the sincerity that follows “Happy-Go-Lucky” from beginning to end. The film works as well as it does thanks to Leigh’s script and direction, and especially thanks to Sally Hawkins’ intoxicating performance.
Having seen Hawkins in the role, I can’t imagine anyone but her bringing to life the vivacity that makes Poppy so loveable. The cast supporting Hawkins are also perfect, especially Marsan whose performance is remarkable and plays off of Hawkins’ cheeriness extremely well. “Happy-Go-Lucky” is a wonderful little film that is worth a look.
Poppy and Scott
No Jewelry Day
VIDEO: "Happy-Go-Lucky" is presented by Miramax in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. This is a fine transfer from the studio, as sharpness and detail remained more than satisfactory. No instances of edge enhancement or pixelation were seen, but a couple of tiny print flaws were spotted. Colors looked bright and well-saturated, with no smearing or other concerns. Flesh tones appeared spot-on, as well. Overall, this was a very nice presentation of Leigh's film.
SOUND: The film is presented in Dolby Digital 5.1. Leigh's films could be presented in stereo and that would be sufficient for the kind of dialogue-driven features that the famed director has produced. Aside from a couple of minor instances of ambience, the rear speakers remain silent. Audio quality was just fine, with crisp, well-recorded dialogue.
EXTRAS: “Behind the Wheel of Happy-Go-Lucky”
Director Mike Leigh, and actors Sally Hawkins and Eddie Marsan talk about the relationship between Poppy and Scott that took place in car. They touch on how Poppy approaches interacting with Scott and visa versa. Cinematographer Dick Pope also offers the details of filming scenes that take place in a car. Seven cameras were positioned in the car so that the actors could drive around freely while filming. A short (but interesting) feature that’s worth a look.
Sally Hawkins offers her views of Poppy and her process of bringing the character to life. Mike Leigh also discusses wanting to give Sally Hawkins the space to work with the role. Eddie Marsan and Alexis Zegerman talk about working with Leigh and the development of their characters. With lots of insights into the characters, the development of the story, and the performances, this is a very nice look at the making of memorable characters and the people who played them.
Commentary with director Mike Leigh. Leigh gives a lively commentary and seems to be enjoying the process. He touches on this film being his first film in widescreen, as well as the bold colors and music used throughout the film. Leigh has moments where he doesn’t speak at all, but when he does it’s interesting and at points offers insights and at other times comments on what the characters are doing and why. Worth a listen for fans.
Final Thoughts: A sweet, well-acted and well-written picture, "Happy-Go-Lucky" is yet another successful effort from director Mike Leigh. The DVD presentation offers fine audio/video quality, as well as a few nice extras. Recommended.
The Film B+