Poppy, Mike Leigh's latest creation, sails through this slice of life with a smile on her face, fun on her mind and kindness in her heart.
Quite brilliantly brought to life by the excellent Sally Hawkins, Poppy has much to be happy about. A true friend, a nice flat in a Finsbury Park, a job she was born to do,supportive colleagues, An enjoyable social life, making her Happy-Go-Lucky. Many could probably act happy for a few hours but Hawkins manages so well to cover all the detail - the eyes, expressions and body language - to show happiness - and never sadness
Then there is Scott. When Poppy's bike is stolen (it must have "flown the nest"), she is confronted with Scott (Eddie Marsan) the driving instructor.The very antithesis of happy. Scott is rigid, angry, frustrated, impatient, knotted up and racist. A borderline OCD sufferer, who is tortured by who-knows-what in his past. Scott is the most bitter and overwhelming character in a Mike Leigh film since David Thewlis in "Naked". A towering performance.
If Poppy is the light, Scott is definitely the dark, but such dark shadows inhabit the whole of "Happy-Go-Lucky". The unhappy schoolboy, the glum Sister, the social climbing sister who dominates her husband. Little vignettes of irritation and annoyance.
The film is at times both lovely and disturbing, life affirming but carrying a caveat that unhappiness does exist in the sullen faces, in madness, in neuroses.
Happy-Go-Lucky is a highly enjoyable and often very funny film, but it also carries terrible sadness. I have never been a massive fan of Mike Leigh, but I have to admit that I was wrong. He just seems to get better and better.