15 minutes into writer/director Mike Leigh’s saga centering on ever cheerful primary school teacher Pauline a.k.a. ‘Poppy’ (Sally Hawkins), one wonders about her annoying, unfunny and hugely irrelevant conversations. By the end, Leigh and actress Hawkins will have everyone cheering for this wonderful unforgettable human being – a feat that credits Happy-Go-Lucky as the best film you can watch online this year.
Happy-Go-Lucky flows as smoothly as protagonist Poppy eases through life’s difficulties. The bright coloured cinematography by Dick Pope and editing by Jim Clark combined with the soothing music brings forth a London that demands that different cultures (both in terms of race and beliefs in life) co-habitate well together. It is when conflicts arise (the driving instructor’s racial remarks; Poppy’s pregnant sister’s insecurity) that the audience feels Leigh’s dramatic wrath.
Leigh’s most watchable and unwatchable scenes in the movie deserve mention. The former is a hilarious exploit of the flamenco dance – personal, erotic, exotic and very funny. The latter of Poppy’s encounter with a homeless man is both disturbing (for what he might spring on her) and manipulative (in the way Leigh forces his audience to sympathize with his heroine). Arguably, many British critics feel the encounter poetic and lyrical. (I originally watched the full movie in London last spring.)
One might argue that to watch Happy-Go-Lucky free online is to see Leigh in familiar territory, as in Life Is Sweet or High Hopes. But the climax here is quite different – a very tense 10 minutes of the clash between Poppy and her driving instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan).
One slight complaint is that Leigh is too forward in letting his audience know (through the characters dialogue or encounters) where the story is leading or what his goal of his film is. But to his credit, the film has a satisfactory ending which could be deemed entertainment.
Unlike Leigh’s previous sombre but excellent Vera Drake, Happy-Go-Lucky is film brimming with high spirits and hopes. It is just like the character Poppy, who can only remark that there was not even time to say goodbye after finding her bicycle stolen. Watching Happy-Go-Lucky the second time around still reaps its rewards. Sally Hawkins is a marvel and delivers a BAFTA, if not Oscar winning performance. Watch for Leigh to offer females the best roles of their careers from Brenda Blethyn, Imelda Staunton to his ex-wife Alison Steadman. Make sure this one is on your must-see list!
It is a pity that this excellent movie that opened in April in the U.K. with the DVD release in August is widely downloadable on the net way before its Canadian premiere at the September Toronto International Film Festival.