Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)
Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

Genre: Dramatic Comedy Running Time: 1 hr. 58 min.

Release Date: November 21st, 2008 MPAA Rating: R

Director: Mike Leigh Actors: Sally Hawkins, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough, Sinead Matthews, Kate O’Flynn, Eddie Marsan, Sylvestra Le Touzel

 


 

“H

appy-Go-Lucky” chronicles several days in the life of Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an intensely cheerful London primary school teacher. As she takes driving lessons from a bitter instructor (Eddie Marsan), attends a Flamenco class, parties with her roommate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), tends to a troubled student, and visits her married sister Helen (Caroline Martin), her irrepressibly sunny disposition affords her both happiness and a few unexpected confrontations. Unable to grasp her unwavering outlook, those around her mostly offer up some level of exasperation – but that typically has no bearing on her attitude.

The authentic performances director Mike Leigh coaxes from his always talented cast are easily the most impressive elements behind this latest dramedy. However, the characters themselves are often so aggravatingly enthusiastic that the weighty substance intermixed in their conversations will be lost to a powerful sense of annoyance, particularly for audiences not accustomed to such seemingly unattainable optimism. Undoubtedly, people like Sally Hawkins’ Poppy do exist – but watching them in a film is not nearly as natural as mocking them in real life.

And real life is a subject closely examined in “Happy-Go-Lucky.” Constant attempts at realism are evident, especially in the way Leigh instructs his actors – starting without a script, having the characters only interact with others as they would in the world of the story, and keeping the actors ignorant of any of the plot elements outside of what their characters would contextually know about. And yet with all of the so-called factualism, much of it is too difficult to accept. Poppy’s ability to shut out all of the negative influences on her permanently chipper mood is commendable, but when she arrives in potentially dangerous situations, it borders on simplemindedness. Fear for wellbeing is something Poppy’s carefree temperament doesn’t account for, though that deficiency of practicality does correspond with her unbiased tolerance to everything.

Poppy’s character is nevertheless continually intriguing, as her extreme enthusiasm and positiveness rarely affect others in a predictable way. A bookstore clerk seems perpetually irritated; a social worker is charmed; sister Helen reacts jealously; and Poppy’s chiding taunts and frequent jokes to the completely opposite, adamantly pessimistic driving instructor (Marsan) cause anything but the desired effect. Even with several unfavorable responses to her sustained demeanor, she never allows such criticism to alter her point of view on life or her accomplishments, regardless of their consequence. In Mike Leigh’s world of eccentric screen inhabitants, Poppy might not be the most conventional of them all, but she sets a standard worthy of studying, admiring, or perhaps emulating.

– The Massie Twins

  • 6/10