Mike Leigh writes and directs this great character study centered on an amazingly upbeat grade school teacher, played by Sally Hawkins, who encounters life changes and heartfelt experiences. Hawkins won a well deserved Golden Globe for her performance, but was overlooked for an Oscar nomination.
She holds amazing attention as her character, Poppy, goes from buddying with her co-workers and friends to taking flamenco dance lessons to more heartfelt situations like an encounter with a homeless man and taking driving lessons with Scott, played by Eddie Marsan (Hancock). “You celebrate chaos!” Scott says to Poppy as he gets frustrated with her during their lessons.
Beyond her colorful outfits and abnormally bright behavior, Hawkins helps create an experience where an individual tests who they are in life while constantly testing their own comfort zones and often breaking out of them… something everyone can related to. At first the proceedings can seem a bit episodic, as if they were meant for a television series, but the unpredictable journey and emotional connections that challenge audiences to test their own outlooks on life ring true. “What am I doing?” says Poppy as she helps someone while putting herself in a potentially dangerous situation.
Happy-Go-Lucky is an engaging study of the human spirit as well as a memorable British comedy-drama with great stars and fast-paced, kinetic dialogue, which might be followed more easily with subtitles as times.
This single disc version has a quick featurette on the driving lessons then an obvious character feature on Poppy and how the filmmaking process occurs around her. An audio commentary from Mike Leigh doesn’t deliver the usual insight as he often pauses and explains instead of providing behind the scenes information about the process, actors, and filmmakers. The film itself is the real gem here. Hawkins, who previously starred in two Leigh films, really gets a star-making role here. Blu-ray version also available. Recommended and rated R for language.