Monday, September 12, 2011

Don't Worry, Be Happy.

95. Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)

Happy-Go-Lucky is one of the more recent films from popular British filmmaker Mike Leigh and serves as a good counter balance to a lot of the other movies I've posted so far. Especially compared to the thoroughly unsettling Dogtooth, Happy-Go-Lucky is charming and infectiously pleasant. Sally Hawkins plays the film's protagonist, Poppy, a school teacher who refuses to let the world get her down whether it's her embittered driving instructor, her fervently emotional dance teacher, or even the prospect of being single.

Decidedly character driven, the film is all about Poppy's determinedly sunny disposition and wraps itself around her warmth, cheerfulness, and general good nature. There are plenty of films that will tell their viewers to enjoy life while you can, look on the brighter side of situations, and to appreciate the little things in life, nearly to the point that they become confectionery cliches. What sets Happy-Go-Lucky apart from these films is the way it expresses its theme, it has a way of not telling us how to feel but instead bringing us into Poppy's world from her unique perception. It becomes an empathetic experience rather than an instructional life lecture.

Of course this infectious experience couldn't work without the performance of Sally Hawkins. This is as much Hawkins' film as it is Leigh's and through every little piece of Poppy which Hawkins and Leigh have created for this film, from her free spirited chuckle to her bouncy mannerisms, the rest of the movie is built around the foundation of her performance. Hawkins and her character command the film as exceptionally as any actress from this past decade and with her director have created an unforgettable character, from a performance that I could not envision with another actress in the business, no matter their versatility or talent. Poppy is as signature a performance for Hawkins as Happy-Go-Lucky is a film from Mike Leigh.

Films from 2008 on List:

Happy-G0-Lucky (Mike Leigh)

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