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.



Total Count: 158
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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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Critic Reviews for Happy-Go-Lucky

All Critics (158) | Top Critics (47)

  • 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…

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