Happy-Go-Lucky is one of those films that will either entertain and/or drive you mad depending on your view. Directed by Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies), the film focuses on Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a free-spirited elementary school teacher who always sees the glass as half full. After her bike is stolen, Poppy decides to take up driving lessons. Enter Scott (Eddie Marsan), Poppy’s hypersensitive driving instructor. Scott believes in order and structure, which is a direct contrast to Poppy’s extroverted personality. As the two meet every Saturday for lessons, they clash over everything from driving to the world in general. Besides worrying about getting a license Poppy must also deal with two very different sisters, and also find time for love.
While I enjoyed Happy-Go-Lucky there were times when I started to question if the film was actually going anywhere? The film is fairly light on plot, which makes certain scenes feel rather pointless. Mike Leigh spends a lot of time at the beginning having us aimlessly follow Poppy around. It is almost like Leigh is testing the audience’s stamina to see which side we will fall on? Are we patient and optimistic like Poppy? Or are we pessimistic and quick to judge like most of the world? Too be honest, I switched sides at numerous points in the film. The fact that Poppy pretty much stays the same throughout the entire film is inspiring. It would be nice if we could all be that cheerful. Yet there are moments in this film when Poppy blissfully does things that most of us would consider dangerous. The film strives to argue that you cannot truly be happy if live a life consumed with fear and intolerance. While this is true, knowingly putting yourself in harms way is not the best way to show how tolerant you are.
Still, as a comedy, there is a lot to enjoy in the film. Sally Hawkins’ does a great job with what is arguably one of the toughest roles to take on. Sure it is easy to dismiss Poppy as overly joyful, yet it Hawkins’ who must constantly keep Poppy from drifting into the realm of absurd. She manages to keep Poppy a believable character that you cannot help but care for. Not to mention that Sally is a comedic gem; both her physical and verbal timing is spot on. Happy-Go-Lucky is definitely a hit or miss film depending on your tolerance level, yet for the most part I was entertained.