Monday, 4 June 2012

Happy-Go-Lucky - Review

Happy-Go-Lucky (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Mike Leigh is high on my list of filmmakers who's work I want to see more of. So last night I sat down to watch Happy-Go-Lucky and here are my thoughts....

Happy-Go-Lucky follows Poppy (Sally Hawkins), an eternally optimistic Londoner, for a small portion of her vibrant life. Her enthusiasm and unwaveringly sunny outlook starts to irritate those around her, most notably her new driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan).

A Mike Leigh film is always character driven and Happy-Go-Lucky is no exception; its very much Poppy's story. But that's fine, because she's a truly wonderful creation. Leigh famously works one on one with his actors trying to develop each of his characters and, in this case, I would've loved to have been a fly on the wall. Poppy is constantly bursting with laughter and yet remains endearing throughout. All credit to Hawkins, not many could've pulled this off with such ease. Having seen her in different roles since this turn it's remarkable how believable she is and how much she carries this movie.

The film itself matches Poppy's optimism, this is much lighter stuff than some have come to expect from Leigh. The message is very much "Life is what you make of it", even amongst all the economic and social constraints that can be placed upon a person. Early on, a bird is invoked as a metaphor for Poppy, an association that remains with the film till its end. Leigh's camera flys with Poppy through London, pausing, as a bird does, at the perfect places; to linger on an abused child's face, to show Scott's racist paranoia. One minor gripe is that, when Leigh does stop, sometimes the dialogue isn't quite up to the task. A few of Poppy's conversations, the long stop with a homeless person for example, clash with the realism.

That aside, Happy-Go-Lucky's exquisite moments and colourful characters ensure it remains a joy from start to finish. Highly recommended.
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