Happy-Go Lucky (Leigh, 2008)

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The hateful Wanted and Mike Leigh’s joyous Happy-Go Lucky represent two extreme perspectives on the human condition, a pair that produces the most fascinating cinematic dichotomy of 2008. While residing at polar opposite ends of the quality spectrum, both films project whole-heartedly  a specific form of energy at work in the world, in the case of Wanted a frenetic negativity and with Happy-Go Lucky an airy but constantly scrutinized positivity. This complexity in tone makes Mike Leigh’s subtle and restrained filmmaking approach so powerful, and specifically Happy-Go Lucky a hands down masterpiece. Leigh’s heroine, a quirky and vibrant Elementary school teacher named Poppy, lives life to the fullest with a humble and patient outlook, but not unaware of the dangers of the real world. No, Poppy encounters plenty of negativity throughout her adventures through London, including a haunting and almost surreal experience with a homeless man, not to mention a prolonged nightmare with a truly frightening driving instructor played by Eddie Marsan. These experiences reveal the key to Happy-Go Lucky; how Poppy reacts to the negativity of everyday life and brilliantly reflects the crippling energy back onto these various givers through the combination of kindness and understanding. Thankfully, Sally Hawkins’ transcendent performance never wanders into caricature or schmaltz. The film achieves exactly the opposite by surrounding Poppy with potential menace and disappointment. Happy-Go Lucky has something most films lack these days; a conviction of character and vision, self-accountability and responsibility. While today’s headlines are currently consumed with negativity and depression, including at the movies, Poppy’s reluctance to dismiss others feels downright revolutionary, her smile utterly at peace with a frightened and unappreciative world.

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One thought on “Happy-Go Lucky (Leigh, 2008)

  1. Happy-Go-Lucky isn’t just a film that demonstrates the goodness of humankind, but makes you believe in it as well. A great film, that couldn’t stop being funny. Check out my review when you can!

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