Happy-Go-Lucky (15)



Drama (2008)
118mins UK

Starring: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman
Director: Mike Leigh
Writer(s): Mike Leigh
Listings: London | Rest of UK and Ireland

Perennially perky primary school teacher Poppy refuses to let life get her down, rising above the misery and cynicism of the capital and its weary inhabitants. Poppy meets her match in misanthropic driving instructor Scott, whose quick temper and boundless pessimism are in stark contrast to her cheery disposition. Scott voices his disdain for his pupil's carefree attitude ("You can make jokes driving, Poppy, but you will crash and you will die!") but she refuses to be worn down by his constant sniping. Their relationship takes an unexpected detour when Poppy begins dating a handsome social worker, and Scott grows increasingly jealous of the new man in his student's life.

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LondonNet Film Review
Happy-Go-Lucky

With award-winning films like Vera Drake, All Or Nothing, Secrets & Lies and Naked, Mike Leigh has cultivated a reputation as a writer-director who loves the company of misery...

Suzy (KATE O'FLYNN), Poppy (SALLY HAWKINS), Zoe (ALEXIS ZEGERMAN) and Alice (SINEAD MATTHEWS) in Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY . Momentum Pictures.Gentle laughter is frequently born of his characters' idiosyncrasies, pouring salt into their deep emotional wounds without any promise of an end to their suffering and self-loathing by the time the end credits roll. So his latest observational slice of London life, the aptly titled Happy-Go-Lucky, will come as a very pleasant surprise. Not only is this Leigh's most relentlessly upbeat and optimistic film for years, perhaps ever, it doesn't lose any of the meticulous detail or rich characterization, which is fleshed out with the actors during his legendary improvisational workshops.

Sally Hawkins deservedly garnered the Best Actress prize at this year's Berlin International Film Festival for her bravura performance as perennially perky primary school teacher Poppy, who refuses to let life get her down, rising above the misery and cynicism of the capital and its weary inhabitants. When her padlocked bicycle is stolen, she merely shrugs and smiles, "Oh no, I didn't have a chance to say goodbye," as if she has simply lost touch with a good friend.

Scott (EDDIE MARSAN)and Poppy (SALLY HAWKINS) in Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. Momentum Pictures.Poppy meets her match in misanthropic driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), whose quick temper and boundless pessimism are in stark contrast to her cheery disposition. "Ooh, he's a bit frisky!" she giggles, getting to grips with the sensitive clutch. Scott voices his disdain for his pupil's carefree attitude ("You can make jokes driving, Poppy, but you will crash and you will die!") but she refuses to be worn down by his constant sniping. Their relationship takes an unexpected detour when Poppy begins dating a handsome social worker (Samuel Roukin), and Scott grows increasingly jealous of the new man in his student's life.

Happy-Go-Lucky is beautifully observed, leaving us with a broad, contented grin almost as big as Poppy's when the sun finally sets on Leigh's film. Storm clouds threaten to gather in a couple of instances, like Poppy's late night conversation with a potentially violent tramp (Stanley Townsend), but her ebullience and tenderness are a balm to the gripes of the people around her.

Jamie (OLIVER MALTMAN), Poppy (SALLY HAWKINS) and Helen (CAROLINE MARTIN) in Mike Leigh's HAPPY-GO-LUCKY. Momentum PicturesHawkins is mesmerizing, a vision of brightly-coloured bangles and hoop ear-rings, whose mouth is often one step ahead of her brain. "Do penguins emigrate? Emigrate, migrate, whatever!" she babbles, laughing at her own mistake. Marsan is equally memorable as the nihilistic loner whose catchphrase ("Enraha!") should be adopted by beleaguered driving instructors across the land. The conversational to and fro between is dizzying: "The road to hell is paved with good intentions," rues Scott; "Sounds like fun!" chuckles his pupil. Unusually, there's no sting in the tail, not that it would worry Poppy one bit.

- Sam Cannon


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