Happy-Go-Lucky goes rather unnoticed, although Mike Leigh is not so unknown and the film really doesn’t deserve it.
Sally Hawkins, who got a Silver Berlin Bear for her performance, plays Poppy, a kind of Pollyanna character. She goes through life laughing and with an amount of energy that would suffice for 3 average people.
There’s not much plot per se in this movie, Poppy goes out with friends, she takes driving lessons and flamenco lessons, hurts her back, goes out with a guy, works, … So excuse me, for not getting into this.
The first twenty minutes or so, Poppy is nerve grating. My sister saw the movie before me and she told me that she left it with the deep desire to punch something Poppy-shaped. I could perfectly understand that in the beginning. Poppy laughs and is loud, she’s obnoxious and has no sense of fashion whatsoever (and trust me, coming from me that means a lot), she can’t take anything seriously and doesn’t respect personal boundaries. And she’s embarassing.
But then we get to know her. We see Poppy’s bike getting stolen and her reaction to this is incredulity and then she sighs, “I couldn’t even say good bye!” Although this reaction leaves me a little bewildered, it’s also very endearing.
We see Poppy handling trouble and talking about something, which is very important to her and we notice that there is another, different Poppy hidden there.
We see her talking to a homeless guy in what is one of the saddest and most touching scenes in cinema in the past years. [And a terrific performance by Stanley Townsend.]
As the film goes on, Poppy continues to gain depth and I am convinced that beneath all the bubbliness is a very intelligent and not so happy grown woman, who doesn’t want to grow up and uses her quirkiness and childishness to cover that it’s happening, as well as using it as a defence against everything that makes her uncomfortable.
The driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan) is Poppy’s exact opposite – cynical, constantly angry and racist. But what really seperates them, is that Poppy is basically fearless and Scott is afraid of everything. When those two clash, it can’t end well.
Happy-Go-Lucky has an amazing cast, especially of course Sally Hawkins, but also her best friend Zoe played by a really beautiful woman, Alexis Zegerman, and Eddie Marsan. And Mike Leigh manages to work this cast into a funny, beautiful and very kind portrayal of a woman, who is more than she seems to be at first glance.
[deadra said that she’s afraid that she’s Poppy, without as much energy. Which would make me Zoe, and I actually think that that works out.]