Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh

Happy-Go-Lucky Mike Leigh
There isn't much to Mike Leigh's Happy-Go-Lucky, and yet it's easily one of the most entertaining films of last year. Focusing his script on the titular subject matter, which finds itself carried out in the truest sense by Poppy (played marvellously by Sally Hawkins), Leigh has taught us that it isn't hard to love the most sanguine person in England. Poppy is a bubbly 30-year-old Londoner who teaches elementary school and tries to make the best out of every situation (i.e., when her bicycle is stolen, she laughs it off). Leigh places his lead character into a series of life events, examining how she handles her environment, whether it's connecting with flat-mate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), battling the tension of a visit with her sisters, learning the flamenco or dealing with an abused student. The nucleus is her relationship with men, the first of which is introduced via driving lessons. Stuck with Scott (Eddie Marsan), a verbally abusive and racist driving instructor, Poppy copes with the dark cloud hovering over her, refusing to let it rain on her perpetual parade, even when he becomes obsessive. The second is her romance with social worker Tim (Samuel Roukin), who embodies every inch of the Prince Charming we wish for her to find. While the title leads you to believe this is a film full of irony, it isn't; Poppy is very much an understanding and effervescent protagonist with the patience of a saint. And while it's difficult to think of Poppy as enough of a character to carry a film essentially about nothing, it's Hawkins' confidence and unbreakable spirit in such a difficult role that makes Happy-Go-Lucky such an enjoyable watch. Leigh's commentary is as jovial as his lead, though he claims the title is more about the film's spirit than a direct reference to the character of Poppy. It's a rather amusing commentary, as he conveniently points out some Englishisms, to clarify for "Americans," grumbles about the difficulty of shooting on the backseat of a Ford Focus and defends Poppy, saying she isn't like Amélie or Holly Golightly, she's more grown up, sharper, sophisticated and mature. "Behind the Wheel" is a featurette that shows the pains of shooting a good portion of a film in a medium-sized Ford, while "Happy-in-Character" examines the character herself and how central to the movie her interaction with Scott is, as well as how she interacts with everyone else. (Maple)