Happy-Go-Lucky (UK, 2008)

Seen: Saturday, 27th December 2008 (cinema)
Runtime: 118′
Polish Distributor: Monolith Films (28th November 2008)
Director: Mike Leigh
Cast: Sally Hawkins, Alexis Zegerman, Eddie Marsan, Samuel Roukin
Production House: Ingenious Film Partners, Thin Man Films
Plot: Poppy is a primary school teacher in London and she always tries to stay happy ;)

Sally Hawkins interview
I already put the trailer in my film spotting post, so here’s a short interview with the lead actress instead :)

Impressions In Short
I loved it :) It’s the kind of film that can make you gigglish and teary simultaneously (or at least it can make me feel like that ;-P).

Some Details
I found this film very reassuring because apparently the kind of London I used to live in still exists ;) Lately, it seems like London doesn’t have any English people living there anymore ;-P I order my meals in Polish in 90% of restaurants when I’m there (I’m not kidding). It always was a very multicultural place, but I barely hear any cockney in London nowadays.
So in some ways it was very reassuring to see a film full of cockney which was set in the London of today rather than the London of the 80s that I was brought up in ;) The film actually touches upon the issue of multiculturalism in London and the tensions this creates - I liked that too :)
But perhaps what appealed to me the most about the story was how female-orientated it is and how well it describes what being a woman today can be like. Just like Poppy and her flatmate Zoe, a lot of women nowadays find themselves in their 30s and still single because they don’t want to compromise on certain things. It’s not a totally dark vision of relationships - Poppy is not unhappy being without a boyfriend and she *does* come across somebody who appreciates her just as she is in the end. But there’s still a certain attitude there that I identify with. There is for example a scene where Poppy and Zoe are lying next to each other and jokingly calling out all the hidden men in the room and then coming to the conclusion they’re all too scared to come out - it’s something I can relate to very well ;) It’s the kind of joke I have shared with girls at times (though maybe not quite as overtly - maybe by the time I’m 30 it will be more overt ;)) and I know exactly where it comes from :] On the other side of the spectrum there’s Poppy’s sister, Helen - who is taking the husband, baby and mortgage kind of route, but feeling bad about herself because she feels like she’s chosen “the easy way out”.
I think many women nowadays have conflicting feelings about men and relationships. I come across a lot of single girls who are at an age where you’d think they’d be in a steady relationship, as well as couples which you’d think would be taking the marital route, but which eventually end up splitting up because the girl just wasn’t sure that was the life she wanted. And I guess that for me the film was a lot about those feelings :)
The best thing about this film though is I think the acting and how human all the characters are. Even though the characters are pretty colourful, they are very human - no glamour. All the actors are terrific. I’m not surprised that Sally Hawkins got so many accolades - Poppy is so over the top with her energy and optimism that it’s difficult to pull off and keep the character this real and human. And the dialogues are really great and sound so natural.

As far as I’m concerned - very emphatically yes! ;-P
However, I noticed on the imdb boards that loads of people didn’t like it, so judging by what they wrote I guess you might want to avoid it if:

  • You totally don’t get British realism and all of those kinds of cinema styles. For example there’s a whole thread on imdb where some are arguing that Amelie’s cinematography, aesthetics and all of that is much better than Happy-Go-Lucky. Of course if you’re talking just about the beauty of colour, composition etc. then that would be correct. But doing something like that in Happy-Go-Lucky would have been totally and completely against the very concept of the film. So if you’re not comfortable watching ordinary sets, with ordinary-looking people who look like they did their make-up themselves (if they’ve got any on that is) and ordinary cinematography to compliment all of this then you will be very disappointed with Happy-Go-Lucky ;)
  • You have hardly any awareness of British working and middle class culture. I certainly got the impression that many people on the boards totally missed the point of the film because the film just didn’t seem all that realistic to them. For me the way the characters were - from the accents to the kind of sense of humour and relationships they had, the kind of sets that were chosen for the film etc. was 100% like what I know from London. It made me feel quite nostalgic and was probably a major reason for why I enjoyed it so much :] For somebody who has no points of reference, all of this would be lost on them I suppose.
  • You find annoying characters annoying ;) Er, what I mean is that in real life I could never be close friends with someone as extreme as Poppy - she tries to chat everybody up and she’s so energetic and optimistic that it would be too much for me. A lot of people seemed to feel like that and for this reason couldn’t enjoy the film - they just found her too annoying. For me finding a certain type of person annoying in real life doesn’t automatically mean I find them annoying on screen. In fact I think Poppy is a fantastic character and in some ways she’s very inspiring. It’s just that if I had to have constant personal contact with somebody like that I’d go insane :]

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