Happy-Go-Lucky

2008

Happy-Go-Lucky

Critics Consensus

Mike Leigh's latest partially-improvised film is a light-hearted comedy with moments that bite, and features a brilliant star turn by Sally Hawkins.

92%

TOMATOMETER

Total Count: 159

67%

Audience Score

User Ratings: 34,751
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Movie Info

Just how hard is it to be happy? In the effervescent new comedy from writer/director Mike Leigh, Sally Hawkins stars as Poppy, an irrepressibly free-spirited school teacher who brings an infectious laugh and an unsinkable sense of optimism to every situation she encounters, offering us a touching, truthful and deeply life-affirming exploration of one of the most mysterious and often the most elusive of all human qualities: happiness. Poppy's ability to maintain her perspective is tested as the story begins and her commuter bike is stolen. However, she enthusiastically signs up for driving lessons with Scott, who turns out to be her nemesis--a fuming, uptight cynic. As the tension of their weekly lessons builds, Poppy encounters even more challenges to her positive state of mind: a fiery flamenco instructor, her bitter, pregnant sister, a troubled homeless man and a young bully in her class, not to mention that she has also thrown out her back. How this affects not only Poppy's world view but also the outlook of those around her begs the question "glass half full or half empty"?

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News & Interviews for Happy-Go-Lucky

Critic Reviews for Happy-Go-Lucky

All Critics (159) | Top Critics (47) | Fresh (147) | Rotten (12)

  • Hawkins wears her grin in almost every scene, but she gives us hints that this dizzy 30-year-old is deep, as are the disappointments that might have caused Poppy to don this mask. It's a performance of sustained, childlike wonder and adult wit.

    Nov 13, 2008 | Rating: 4/5 | Full Review…
  • It's a powerful argument for optimism.

    Oct 31, 2008 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…
  • I've never used this cliché in a review before, and God forbid I ever use it again, so pay close attention: Happy-Go-Lucky is the feel-good movie of the year.

    Oct 31, 2008 | Rating: 4/4 | Full Review…
  • Sally Hawkins, in a blinding, Oscar-worthy piece of acting so good you barely see it, plays Poppy, a perpetually upbeat elementary schoolteacher in London.

    Oct 31, 2008 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

    Tom Long

    Detroit News
    Top Critic
  • Leigh pushes the story in a more interesting direction, asking whether people find happiness or simply will it on themselves.

    Oct 30, 2008 | Full Review…
  • The intentions of this oddity are muddled, but the small portraits of ordinary people choosing their path through the daily range of depression and delight are fully alive.

    Oct 28, 2008 | Rating: B- | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for Happy-Go-Lucky

  • Nov 05, 2012
    Unusually for Mike Leigh, this is an attempt at looking on the bright side of life. However, in typical fashion we cant be too happy and luvvey duvvey for too long as a dose of reality is introduced to give the story some legitimacy. Despite this, the film does have some very interesting things to say particularly about peer pressure and conformity and how some people actually see positiveness as a threat instead of a strength. Maybe Leigh is suggesting that this says more about society than the individual? I also like how the main character is criminally underestimated because of her casual manner and outlook on life as this is the way life can be in my experience. Poppy is a primary school teacher who has an unusually positive attitude to life and flatly refuses to let the everyday grind get her down. So much so that the majority of people she comes across find this overbearing and suffocating? Except that is for those who know her and accept her quirky (and often very annoying) ways for what they are. She is single and lives with her long term flatmate who is also a teacher. She decides to take driving lessons after her bike is stolen and her driving instructor Scott (Marsan) is the complete opposite in that he is one of the most negative, paranoid people in existence. There are initial clashes as Scott is a serious man and lets just say that Poppy doesnt do serious very well. The relationship between the two forms the basis of the story. It soon becomes obvious to Scott that there is more to Poppy than meets the eye (of which she is also very easy on) and so they learn a little more about each others lives with each lesson. Hawkins is very good in the role and I would say that the beginning of the film is hard going at first. This is because I found Poppy just a little too sickly sweet for my taste. But as the story progresses the character does become a little easier to take and your perseverance is rewarded with a character who is everything I would want a friend to be? Always positive and upbeat, loving and caring and also knowing when to be serious and how to deal with difficult situations which is none more so highlighted by what she deals with in her classroom? Marsan (Scott) is always good in whatever roles he plays and you cannot but help feel a little sorry for his predicament and his subsequent anger with the world (but not too much). The chances are that (like myself) you will probably know a Poppy and ill bet that person is in all likelihood derided just as she is in this story? What I would say is that if you do, accept them for what they are as trust me when I say that there is nowhere near enough of them? Kindness is a strength not a weakness. **Gets off soapbox**
    Justin F Super Reviewer
  • Jul 08, 2012
    Although the mostly plotless nature of the film might turn away some viewers, Happy-Go-Lucky is a gleefully fun and energetic feel-good movie driven by a wonderful Sally Hawkins, who plays the protagonist Poppy with an endless amount of charm and likeability. This is among the most cheerful films I've ever watched, and its happiness is very contagious. If you're looking for an exciting story, this might not be for you. However, if you give this movie a chance, your adoration for Poppy will more than likely keep you glued to the screen, if only to see what she says or does next.
    Joey S Super Reviewer
  • Feb 13, 2012
    An engaging character study about a woman blessed with a sunny disposition. It is a rare occasion that you see a protagonist who's care-free nature isn't looked down upon. Her naivety a source of contempt. Poppy the protagonist is in many ways the antithesis of a protagonist in a Sam Mendes film. She isn't cynical, jaded, or doing all in her power to not drown in the minutiae of everyday life. She is sweet, intuitive, independent, and always looking on the bright side. But rather than having her be an empty sack of smiles, Leigh fleshes her out in a way that even when you don't understand her, you root for her. Poppy does not wish to imitate "adult" life, but the pressure to do so is ever-present. Responsibilities mount, situations change, and the desire to find someone grows stronger with each day. Her interactions with her driving teacher, a man very consumed with the idea of responsible living, are awkward, funny, poignant, and an interesting point/counterpoint on proper living. Do I wish that Leigh would have probed a little more into what makes Poppy tick? Yes. But being my first foray into the world of Mike Leigh, I was more than pleased to spend a couple of hours with someone as unique and wonderful as Poppy.
    Reid V Super Reviewer
  • Oct 10, 2011
    Sally Hawkins irradiated much more presence in front of the screen with an immaculate performance rather than Leigh behind the camera. Talk about a performance! However, whereas people usually relate fantasy to Hawkins' nature, well, I literally have met people with the same rate of irrational craziness, and they are the hardest people to talk and deal with. The irony is that Leigh also put together a series of bizarre, yet fascinating characters into one contemporary "comedy" such as the Flamenco teacher and the driving instructor (which is surely my favorite by a mile). Everything is messed up, but it's a very fun mess, that's for sure. 69/100
    Edgar C Super Reviewer

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