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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
Maybe the world is too much for even the most dedicated optimist?
Some UK critics have been saying that "Happy-Go-Lucky" is the happiest and most cheerful movie that Mike Leigh has ever made. Well, I don't know if I would exactly agree with that. It is and it isn't.
Sally Hawkins' primary school teacher Poppy is, indeed, a very happy individual. Annoyingly happy, insanely cheerful, depressingly optimistic and psychotically 'Up!', most of the time. It is a tribute to Sally Hawkins performance that, once you get past the initial irritation with her, you completely fall in love with Poppy, her goodness, her openness and, yes, her simple niceness.
Then there is Eddie Marsan's driving instructor Scott. Scott is the very antithesis of happy. Scott is rigid, angry, frustrated, impatient, knotted up and racist. A borderline OCD sufferer, who is tortured by who-knows-what in his past. Scott is the most bitter and overwhelming character in a Mike Leigh film since David Thewlis' Johnny in "Naked". It is a towering performance by Eddie Marsan.
If Poppy is the light, Scott is definitely the dark, but it seemed to me that dark shadows inhabit the whole of "Happy-Go-Lucky". The unhappy schoolboy, the glum Sister, the other sister - a social climber who dominates her husband. Little vignettes of irritation and annoyance. Typical Mike Leigh.
"Happy-Go-Lucky" is a really good film, if you stick with it. I liked the way that Poppy does stop smiling towards the end. Maybe the world is too much for even the most dedicated optimist?
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