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Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

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A look at a few chapters in the life of Poppy, a cheery, colorful, North London schoolteacher whose optimism tends to exasperate those around her.



Nominated for 1 Oscar. Another 39 wins & 58 nominations. See more awards »



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Cast overview, first billed only:
Bookshop Assistant
Alice (as Sinéad Matthews)
Sarah Niles ...
Suzy's Boyfriend
Anna Reynolds ...
Flamenco Student


Poppy Cross is happy-go-lucky. At 30, she lives in Camden: cheeky, playful, frank while funny, and talkative to strangers. She's a conscientious and exuberant primary-school teacher, flatmates with Zoe, her long-time friend; she's close to one sister, and not so close to another. In this slice of life story, we watch her take driving lessons from Scott, a dour and tightly-wound instructor, take classes in flamenco dance from a fiery Spaniard, encounter a tramp in the night, and sort out a student's aggressive behavior with a social worker's help. Along the way, we wonder if her open attitude puts her at risk of misunderstanding or worse. What is the root of happiness? Written by <jhailey@hotmail.com>

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis


The one movie this fall that will put a smile on your face.


Comedy | Drama | Romance

Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for language | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:



Official Sites:

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Release Date:

21 November 2008 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Happy-go-lucky  »

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

£385,190 (UK) (18 April 2008)


$3,494,485 (USA) (16 January 2009)

Company Credits

Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs


Sound Mix:



Aspect Ratio:

2.35 : 1
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Did You Know?


During preparation for the film, Sally Hawkins stayed in character of Poppy and took her to the streets of London. See more »


In the build up to the final (aborted) driving lesson Scott (Eddie Marsan) is seen turning right into Holloway road (half way up and heading north), then moments later they are seen navigating the Highbury and Islington roundabout, turning into again into Holloway road about half a mile south of the previous location. See more »


Title Card: [first lines]
Poppy: [pulls out book from shelf] The Road to Reality...
[smiles and pushes the book back]
Poppy: Don't wanna be going there!
See more »


Featured in Happy-Go-Lucky: B-Roll (2008) See more »


Common People
Performed by Pulp
Written by Jarvis Cocker (as Cocker) / Nick Banks (as Banks) / Candida Doyle (as Doyle) / Steve Mackey (as Mackey) / Russell Senior (as Senior)
Published by Universal/Island Music Ltd
Courtesy of Universal-Island Records Ltd
Under licence from Universal Music Operations
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

See more (Spoiler Alert!) »

User Reviews

Poppy needs to be popped
21 October 2008 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

"Insufferable," is what my roommate said as we left Mike Leigh's new film Happy-Go-Lucky. Funny: the word that kept popping up in my head throughout was, "Unbearable." I guess we were both right.

I had just finished reading Truman Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's and patently was in the mood for something that possessed such easy levity. Happy-Go-Lucky seemed just right. What I would later learn—about five minutes into Happy—is that the film is far closer in tone, concept, and subject matter to the opening pages of The Berenstain Bears Learn About Strangers in which an extroverted Sister Bear can't quite grasp the concept that the rest of the world isn't nearly as nice as she, and that whether she knows or not or cares or not, there are indeed bad people in the world who are not immediately her friends.

And this seems to be the same—and only—problem with which the main character of Happy must contend. Played with hyperbolic espiegle that makes you want to slap her in the face on more than one occasion, relative novice Sally Hawkins is Poppy, a 30-year-old primary school teacher who can't stop smiling, giggling idiotically, and talking to everyone around her… no matter if they—or we—really want to hear her or not.

The film opens with Poppy popping poppedly into a staid bookstore. Even though she tells the lone worker in the store that she's glad to be inside from the crazy chaos of the city, the worker wants yet more serene silence than she, choosing to elide her comments until she finally, after about ten minutes of non-stop yammering, gets the point that someone like she probably belongs out in the noisy world that doesn't seem to stop or shut up.

It's all pretty much downhill from there, as we see Poppy dance lithely around the world in her obnoxious go-go boots that even her pugilistic, racist, Christian fundamentalist driving instructor chastises her about time and time again as being inappropriate both for driving and for mature adulthood in general. He may have a point, but it's the jabbing and insistent force of said point that earns the driver, an absolutely irritating Eddie Marsen, one of the high marks that led us to leaving about 20 minutes early from this stinker. This becomes the main crux of the film that, literally up until we left—at a good hour or more into the picture—had no kind of discernible conflict whatsoever aside from the obnoxiously swelling score that makes one dizzy and overwhelmed with nausea. Each scene gives us another long and droning glimpse into the life of this gelastic clown who has decided that there's no need to either grow up or to leave alone people who already have. She's either fascistically and maniacally doing all she can to get a smile out of everyone around her, no matter if they want to, or she's externalizing some superficial, self-righteous sense of ever-more-playful sympathy for people who deserve, if nothing else, far less.

The most offensive moment of such gratuitous compassion is when Poppy, as though she were some kind of bubble-headed progressive college kid or, again, Sister Bear, decides to follow the sounds of a raving derelict deep into the industrial wasteland under a bridge where she finds said derelict sitting filthily amidst some trash. Rather than running for her life—it's England, a large city, late at night in the middle of nowhere, after all—Poppy takes to speaking with the mumbling chap, admitting that, yes, she does "know" as he asks her over and over again with stereotypical bum-like repetition: "Y'know, y'know, y'know?"

What is supposed to, I suppose, play as one scene of earnest modern life and bring a modicum of "reality" to this ridiculous jaunt of a film, really just made me not only sigh with disgust but also with some indignation. What is Leigh trying to insinuate here? What is he teaching young girls in England and the Western World over? That this kind of behavior is safe? Bold? Compassionate? Oy vey. Natural Born Killers and A Clockwork Orange can be castigated for—tee hee—resulting in copycat crimes, but Mike Leigh can go around telling beautiful young women that it's all right to go and talk to bums under bridges? Bah!

A similar situation grants us Poppy dealing with an abusive, redheaded scamp of a pint-sized bully in her class who can't stop hitting the other students around him. Once again, Poppy and Leigh take the moral highroad here—circa 1992—and decide to feel bad for the kid, to show us that Poppy really just wants to be the student's "mate" more than anything else, lamenting to her roommate upon first realizing the problem, "Poor kid." No concern of the victims of the bully, of the other students in her class. It seems that the worst someone is—a raving derelict, a pint-sized bully, an obnoxiously irate driving instructor—the more he is subject of either affection or harmless laughter in Poppy's world and Leigh's shallow film.

Already nudging me at after the first hour of Poppy's adventures through playland, my roommate had had enough and I was almost right there with him, opting to wait until there was at least some sort of conflict before finally giving up. A social worker that Poppy meets and with whom she's more than likely going to see on a less professional visit next time led me to believe maybe someone would finally give her that slap she so desperately deserved… but, no… the next scene gives us a an entirely new plot line involving a pregnant relative, and this is when I realized it at last: time to pop out once and for all.

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