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HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Director: MIKE LEIGH

U.K. • 2008 • COLOUR • ANAMORPHIC • DOLBY DIGITAL STEREO • 118 MIN


IF THE ’50s DRAMA VERA DRAKE REPRESENTED MIKE LEIGH AT HIS DARKEST, HIS NEW FILM MUST RANK AS THE MOST EFFERVESCENT OF HIS CAREER.
A cheery slice of North London life, it’s built on an awardscalibre performance from Sally Hawkins as the aptly-named Poppy, a perennially upbeat junior school teacher who’s lived in the same flat-share for ten years, doesn’t have a man, but is perkily happy in her own skin. So perky, in fact, that her hyper-chatty demeanour at first seems scatter-brained to a fault, but Leigh knows exactly where he’s going with this story, and as the outline of Poppy’s life comes into view, we soon come to appreciate the centred individual hidden beneath the skittish exterior. Her chilled-out flatmate and best pal Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) proves a perfect foil and support, of course, as we trace Poppy’s latest projects—a flamenco dance class, discovering what’s behind the aggressive behaviour of one of her young charges, and driving lessons with uptight instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan). He’s the film’s other memorable creation, an ostensibly geeky type whose simmering resentment at the world proves startlingly volatile, and whose interplay with the bright ‘n’ breezy Poppy prompts consistently edgy laughter. Using a more mobile camera than usual, the whole piece feels like a new lease of life for a director who sometimes shapes plot and character with a heavy hand—instead, the film’s relaxed enough to follow Poppy’s daily micro-dramas, yet with an underlying sense of control which is quite masterly. It’s funny, poignant, blissfully entertaining, and Leigh at his unmissable best.—Trevor Johnston.

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