Movie review: “Happy Go Lucky”

As a counter-balance to the blood and guts of Underworld and Underworld: Evolution, we took out a diametrically different movie: Happy-Go-Lucky (2008). (Good synopsis here).

“Happy-Go-Lucky is a 2008 British comedy-drama film written and directed by Mike Leigh. The screenplay focuses on an irrepressibly cheerful and infinitely optimistic primary school teacher [Pauline ‘Poppy’ Cross] and her relationships with those around her.” (Wikipedia)

The movie is set in London. Poppy (played by Sally Hawkins) shares a flat with her best friend Zoe (played by Alexis Zegerman), who is also a primary school teacher. One of Poppy’s sisters (Suzie?) is her polar opposite, ranging from being comatose and non-communicative to depressed and irritable. Her other sister is married and heavily pregnant.

One day, Poppy’s bicycle is stolen, and she decides spontaneously that she wants to learn how to drive a car. She somehow hooks up with a seriously uptight and neurotic driving instructor, Scott (played brilliantly by Eddie Marsan). Scott’s behaviour becomes increasingly disturbed, as he finds it impossible to contain his outbursts of anger, launching into racist and sexist tirades. Poppy, in contrast, remains overly cheerful and and bubbly, teasing him and making fun of everything he says, in a misguided attempt to lighten things up in their emotionally charged driving lessons.

I failed to grasp the point of an encounter she has late one night with a homeless and mentally confused man – was it supposed to show a different, more calm and caring side to her personality?

The best moments of the movie for me where when she had to figure out a way of helping a little boy in her class who suddenly starts bullying other boys in the school. It was the only time a genuinely caring side came through.

Other than that, I found Poppy’s behaviour throughout most of the movie to be irresponsible, superficial and frankly irritating. She frequently made flippant remarks when it was utterly inappropriate. The film portrayed happiness as always having fun, laughing at everything, never taking anything seriously, and being emotionally unaffected by the turmoil and suffering of others.

I doubt that that would be true happiness.

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