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Reviews
STAR RATINGS EXPLAINED
Unmissable 5 Stars
Excellent 4 Stars
Good 3 Stars
Poor 2 Stars
Tragic 1 Star

FILM DETAILS
Certificate
15
Cast
Sally Hawkins
Eddie Marsan
Alexis Zegerman
Andrea Riseborough
Samuel Roukin.
Directors
Mike Leigh.
Screenwriters
Mike Leigh.
Running Time
118 minutes

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Happy-Go-Lucky
Mike Leigh gets his glad rags on…


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Plot
Poppy (Hawkins) is a London primary school teacher. After her bike is stolen she gets driving lessons, but her teacher, Scott (Marsan), turns out to be a bit of a nut. She begins learning flamenco. One of the kids in her class has problems at home. And all the while, she barely stops smiling…


Review
Happy-Go-Lucky
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It is a fairly common misconception that crying on demand is one of the hardest things an actor can do. It’s not. Sneezing convincingly, for example, is tougher. As is laughing. And by that we mean proper laughing - laughing with your eyes, to paraphrase Roald Dahl, rather than with your mouth. In this sense, Mike Leigh regular Sally Hawkins delivers a remarkable performance as Poppy, a woman who greets every situation with a smile, a joke and a guffaw, as if she’s hooked on nitrous oxide.

Towards the end of the film, her flatmate advises her, “You can’t make everyone ’appy all the time,” to which she replies, “Yeah, but there’s no ’arm in tryin’.” Some would disagree, and that’s the driving dynamic of Leigh’s latest film: in an insular, insecure urban society, what do we make of someone like Poppy? She certainly challenges the assumptions of those who encounter her, from a snooty bookshop clerk to unhinged driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), to us, the audience. She’s not stupid, she’s not naive, she’s not even self-deceptive - we uncover no dark soul broiling beneath the gleaming smile and dizzy mannerisms.

You spend the movie half-expecting Leigh to punish her for her persistent frivolity, yet while his dramatic constructions certainly test Poppy’s bounce (including one unnecessary extended scene where she encounters a mad tramp), it’s less a case of the world trying to grind her down than her trying, for want of a better phrase, to grind the world up. This is most evident in the driving lesson episodes, with Marsan’s invective-spitting misanthrope set up as the hate-mongering yang to Poppy’s mirthful ying. Here, Marsan - who must be tiring of playing misfits - comes close to unbalancing the film, Scott’s beetroot-faced rants tainting the naturalism somewhat.

Still, those who only know Leigh by his (unfair) reputation as a miserablist might be surprised to find that ultimately, Happy-Go-Lucky is a genuine feelgood film. There’s a good chance that you’ll wish you could face all life’s tribulations Poppy-style. You might even be tempted to give it a go — after all, there’s no ’arm in tryin’.


Verdict
Mike Leigh draws a bravura performance out of Sally Hawkins, and she in return makes Poppy one of Leigh’s best characters yet - up there with the likes of Vera Drake or Beverly from Abigail’s Party.


Reviewed by Dan Jolin

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Your Reviews

Average user rating for Happy-Go-Lucky
Empire Star Rating

It’s often tough-goings, especially during (LOUD) exchanges between Poppy and her entourage, and the former varies drastically from inspiring to mind-numbingly irritating. Still, the script is charming (most of the time) and Hawkins is excellent. Also, it’s worth seeing for her and Marsan’s scenes alone. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by Romarth at 12:48, 29 March 2009 | Report This Post


The best British film of last year? Quite possibly... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 00:45, 07 February 2009 | Report This Post


Mike Leight hate emo-like-people. I with you, Mike! ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by ARmy2510 at 02:16, 04 January 2009 | Report This Post


Happy Go Lucky

a likeable enough film ,but the main character Poppy can be very annoying at times ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by moviemaniac2 at 21:44, 23 November 2008 | Report This Post


Cute but I dont get the big hipe about it!

Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a crazy primary school teacher, living in London. She and her housemate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) are always out for a drink, whistling after some guys, and are definitely, at all times, up for a laugh. The film doesn’t really have a story; it’s more a random period in Poppy’s life. She takes driving lessons with a very grumpy and possibly mentally unbalanced driving instructor (Eddie Marsan) who ends up falling in ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by TheMovieNess at 10:55, 01 November 2008 | Report This Post


One of the most annoying films I have ever seen.

I was ridiculously disappointed with this film after so many positive reviews and personal recommendations to see it. I cannot believe how irritating ‘Poppy’ is and feel that the performance was excruciatingly contrived and the characters poorly developed. Leigh’s relentless quest to charm the audience with Poppy's quirky and wacky exploits even led me to begin to root for the stereotype racist religious nut ‘Scottâ&... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thomas101 at 23:43, 27 October 2008 | Report This Post


One of the most annoying films I have ever seen.

I was ridiculously disappointed with this film after so many positive reviews and personal recommendations to see it. I cannot believe how irritating 'Poppy' is and feel that the performance was excruciatingly contrived and the characters poorly developed. Leigh's relentless quest to charm the audience with Poppy's quirky and wacky exploits even led me to begin to root for the stereotype racist religious nut 'Scott'. Shame they didn't crash the car/ drown in the boat. I barely survived watchi... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by thomas101 at 23:41, 27 October 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Happy-Go-Lucky

igh and Sally Hawkins Discuss o-Lucky from CityNews.ca ted by bamcatfilms) ... More

Posted by Mason Verger at 17:11, 15 September 2008 | Report This Post


I really love Mike Leigh

But I couldn't stand this film. I found the character of Poppy so annoying I actually had difficulty staying in my seat. If I had met someone in real life that was like her I probably would have murdered them. I'll stick to Leigh's miserable films... ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by missphoenix at 13:11, 14 May 2008 | Report This Post


Happy-Go-Lucky

I enjoyed it, but it's not a particularly memorable film. Poppy is maybe a bit happy-go-lucky, at times she comes across as a female Colin Hunt, such is her determination to put on a happy face regardless of what is going on and be wacky, and some scenes stretch credibility a little bit too far (exactly why did she feel compelled to go and see what the mad tramp was up to, let alone sit and try and have a conversation with him).   Plotwise theres not a lot going on, basically and (the... More

Posted by Indio at 22:27, 29 April 2008 | Report This Post


deleted review

(Post deleted by author as it was heavily cropped without any warning on word limit) ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by chrisdocker at 11:47, 22 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Happy-Go-Lucky

L: El Becks L: timgowen If the film has a fault it's that it makes Scott a vividly recognisable figure but then pushes credibility just a little too far. Just got back from seeing Happy-Go-Lucky and disagree with your view of there being a fault with the character of Scott. on't get me wrong, I thought the performance was superb but ultimately, for me, he became a little too intense at the end. I don't want to give anything away, and it's really just a minor quibble in an... More

Posted by timgowen at 08:40, 20 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Happy-Go-Lucky

L: timgowen If the film has a fault it's that it makes Scott a vividly recognisable figure but then pushes credibility just a little too far. Just got back from seeing Happy-Go-Lucky and disagree with your view of there being a fault with the character of Scott.  I thought Eddie Marsan was absolutely fantastic and real and enjoyed the scenes during the driving lessons most of all; I've met people like Scott who read so much into somebody just being friendly and pleasant... More

Posted by El Becks at 23:59, 19 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE: Happy-Go-Lucky

What’s up? Mike Leigh has made a film called that and this is the man who brought us coiled-up middle-class turmoil in Abigail’s Party, a scary metropolitan nightmare world in Naked and… well, a full-on Gilbert & Sullivan biopic. Not to mention the films which I’ve not mentioned. A wide variety of topics in an impressive body of films which are all developed through improvisation, but basically they’re all about class. So Happy-Go-Lucky is neither an ironic title for another broadside a... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by timgowen at 17:25, 19 April 2008 | Report This Post


RE: absolutley brilliant

So good you posted twice, SP!   Thanks for review; planning to see this tonight. ... More

Posted by El Becks at 16:18, 19 April 2008 | Report This Post


absolutley brilliant

an adorable, uplifting, hilarious Brit-flick that is well worth a couple of re-watches. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 10:34, 17 April 2008 | Report This Post


absolutley brilliant

an adorable, uplifting, hilarious Brit-flick that is well worth a couple of re-watches. ... More

Empire User Rating

Posted by shawshank prisoner at 10:34, 17 April 2008 | Report This Post


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