Happy-Go-Lucky (4 stars)


(15) 118min


The social realism-orientated cinema of British filmmaker Mike Leigh takes on a slightly different tone with Happy-Go-Lucky, his most recent foray into a kind of filmic anthropology of (to use the great filmmaker’s own words) ‘how we live and how we survive.’

Familiar, yet reassuringly different from anything he has done since 1997’s Career Girls, Happy-Go-Lucky is the affectionate portrait of 30-something Poppy (Sally Hawkins). Naturally loving, responsible and caring with an anarchic sense of fun, Poppy is a joy. She lives a normal, fairly carefree life in a suburban corner of London. By day she teaches small children, by night she takes flamenco and trampoline lessons and her weekends are divided between a weekly driving lesson with disturbed instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), getting mashed up with friends.

Leigh and another well-selected cast have clearly worked long and hard to improvise this slice of modern life drama. The director is working on a different register here however than some of his other darker films, notably Naked and Vera Drake. Accessing a very mobile and lightweight crew Happy-Go-Lucky is a film of movement, light and fresh air that throbs with the motifs of the early Parisian keystones of the French New Wave film. Most of all it’s a film about everything and nothing, the downtime and the uptime, a life lived with positivity. It’s a film that transmutes Oscar Wilde’s witty assertion that the difference between the optimist and the pessimist, ‘the optimist sees the doughnut; the pessimist the hole’ into something tangible and life affirming.

General release from Fri 18 Apr.


  • 4 stars
  • 2008
  • UK
  • 1h 58min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Mike Leigh
  • Written by: Mike Leigh
  • Cast: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman, Sylvestra Le Touzel, Samuel Roukin

Leigh returns with a familiar, yet reassuringly different film, an affectionate portrait of carefree 30-something Londoner Poppy (Hawkins) and the minutiae of her everyday life. About everything and nothing, the downtime and the uptime, this is life-affirming stuff.