Saturday, December 06, 2008

"Happy-Go-Lucky" (2008) - Movie Review

Can you be really happy for all your life time? Will you work relentlessly in achieving it? It would be no and yes. Poppy (Sally Hawkins) sincerely works on the latter question not with a seriousness but with a ray of unobstructed sunshine and it should be noted that the intensity of it is consistent. Does not weigh a bit less or more in promoting that energy to the people surrounding her. Merry, cheering and not a single thing could sway her from the shine of happiness. She can be the most happiest person alive.

Mike Leigh’s “Happy-Go-Lucky” is not a version of happiness that is painted in bright red and flowery caricatures of Hollywood film emotions. It in the character of Poppy is the single most convincing and most realistic happiness seen in the films in recent times. Poppy is thirty, single and lives with a best/flat mate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman). Both work hard during the week as primary school teachers while party hard in the weekends. Poppy has two younger sisters, Suzy (Kate O’Flynn) hanging out young and free with Poppy and a pregnant typical well settled house wife Helen (Caroline Martin) we see later in the film. As Leigh does in his films when the sisters meet, all it takes is a couple of minutes to understand each other and their relationships in a jiffy.

Poppy’s unstoppable optimism annoys people. Helen would the one to start with. When a stranger laughs for something else during our bad day, we think they laugh at us. But we actually are annoyed at them on the unfairness the life has put us, at that moment. How can when I am in the downtrodden roads of misery can another simple human have a cheery day. Or in the case of Poppy, it is a perennial exercise of bubbling moments. One such is her driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), an angry man who takes driving as a soldier would take his military code. “En-ra-ha” he says repeatedly for remembering the mirrors in a car and I learnt now that it is named after fallen angels and it is his technique to get his “pupil” to remember. He complains, cribs and takes the job very very seriously while Poppy is like a bumble bee trying to get out of a glassed door only that she does to induce laugh out of this poor guy.

Scott in his rule of driving sputters some philosophical view of his on the educational system, multiculturalism in the current world and his other pupils not respecting him or the sanctity of driving. Eddie Marsan plays Scott with an unflinching ability to downplay the positive charisma of Poppy. He spits with an anger subdued, explosive, irritating and in many fashion with a compliment by Poppy deflecting and returning it with the same fervour of laugh, smirks, smiles and guffaws. I remember how my brother taught me to release the clutch in the very first lesson to ride a bike. I sucked from my part but made it worse by the shout from the big man. Unlike my brother who calmed down to teach me properly, Scott is angered consistently and as him we realize he is drawn into Poppy.

But who will not be drawn into her? Sure it would be an overplayed happiness of formality and being nice but we see her in time due that she means every word of it. She indeed loves life and she indeed loves the toughness it poses. She flourishes with love to every one. She finds jokes in every move as she does in the Flamenco dancing class when the teacher (Karina Fernandez) outbursts before a splendid tutorial of the elegance and style of the dance.

There is a scene in the film with a homeless man (Stanely Townsend). Poppy goes on a walk in the middle of the night to find this man who is no way related or of any knowing to her. She begins to talk with him. He blabbers with scrambled speech making no sense but Poppy acknowledges that she understands. She does which we see in her eyes and the comforting voice of her and the homeless man acknowledges through his face too. That scene would be a step away from the normal flow of the film. It is and the moment in between them is genuine. It in isolating away from the film still remains so much true to the character of Poppy. After couple of minutes the man goes away as though afraid to be addicted the infectious smile of Poppy even in her submerged fear in talking with him.

Sally Hawkins is wonderful. She is simply and purely wonderful. In her tiny physique, her Poppy dresses with full of colours, wears a boot which she loves and always carries two to three bags with her fluttering as a flag in her pole like body. In the infinite supply of aura, we wonder what would tick her off. How would a conflict affect her and Leigh gives that apart from the encounter with Scott. She sees a kid violent on his fellow students. What is she going to do? She does what the system of teacher and school does and it paves way to her love interest, Tim (Samuel Roukin) a social worker and also unfold a most tense moments with Scott in the film.

All the Leigh’s films I have seen so far have been on the down right despair or a subtle reference of hidden emotions of secrets, pasts and life. In “Happy-Go-Lucky” he gives the other end of the spectrum without the glossiness and with the authenticity of his touch. He gives characters taking life as it is and address their insecurities, behaviour and expectations as we do in the life of ours. This along with “Milk” would make my best films of 2008.

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