happy-go-lucky-oct-2ndIn a departure from Leigh’s usual style of stark realism, Happy-Go-Lucky tells the optimistic story of Poppy (Sally Hawkins) a primary school teacher. Following the theft of her bike, Poppy takes driving lessons, with Scott (Eddie Marsan) a dour racist instructor, who provides the foil to Poppy’s cheerfulness. The many strands provide a richness of plot and, like the driving lessons, follow many directions, from issues affecting her schoolchildren and school to the extra- curricular distractions of flamenco dancing. Set in the familiar Leigh territory of London’s Finsbury Park and Camden, this is a story of family, friendship and commitment in post-Blair Britain. (Cert 15)
Dir: Mike Leigh 114 mins UK 2008

Programme Notes

Thursday 2nd October 2008

UK 2008 118 MINS

‘Mike Leigh and his leading actress Sally Hawkins triumph in his latest film, a portrait of a relentless optimist that transcends sentiment and cliché’ [Phillip French, The Observer]

To commence the 2008/2009 season on a cheerful and optimistic note, here is Mike Leigh’s most recent film Happy-Go-Lucky. Known for his naturalistic and improvised style of filmmaking, Leigh again uses these methods but in a much lighter vein, in contrast to previous films such as ‘Vera Drake’, ‘All or Nothing’ and ‘Naked’.

The film follows the life of Poppy [Sally Hawkins, All or Nothing] a Primary School teacher, who lives with her best friend Zoe [Alexis Zegermen] in a North London flat. Poppy is happy with her life and approaches everything she does with boundless enthusiasm and exuberance. In an increasingly cynical world, the character of Poppy is a breath of fresh air [although some may find the improvised dialogue and affected London accents irritating]. Leigh stays true to his upbeat narrative as Poppy navigates her way through driving lessons with the dour Scott [Eddie Marsan], every-day challenges at her school, relationships professional and personal, and family life. Poppy relentlessly finds the positives in every situation ? at one point Zoe suggests that she should ‘consider giving up being nice to everyone’! N.F.

Poppy – Sally Hawkins
Zoe – Alexis Zegerman
Scott – Eddie Marsan
Tim – Samuel Roukin
Director – Mike Leigh
Screenwriter – Mike Leigh
Photography – Dick Pope
Music – Gary Yershon
Producer – Simon Channing-Williams


“Good fun”

“Witty and atmospheric – growing up for adults?”

“I really enjoyed it – the most uplifting Mike Leigh I’ve seen. I loved the flamenco dance teacher. Everyone’s life should have a Poppy (in it)”

“Gets an A, though Poppy’s early days were a bit trying. Great performances and settings – altogether a knockout. What a start! Can you keep up this standard …. ?”

“Great start to the season. A pity Poppy couldn’t make her instructor happy. Some sad undertones.”

“A good start to the season – may it continue in this vein.”

“A nice, gentle start to the season.”

“Lovely whimsical music – a film with heart and bite. Thank you. And a good advertisement for the BSM!”

“Wonderful portrayal of a woman coming to realise the effect she is having on others: what is hard to understand is how she reached 30yrs without realising it sooner. Also, was her laid-back style the consequence of an earlier trauma?”

“Lovely, life-enhancing (film) but (with some) dark points”

“Not much happened but the acting was great. Impressive camera work – good entertainment.”

“Great acting from Eddie Marsan and Sally Hawkins – not really memorable but excellent none the less.”

“Oh, the pain of growing up! Well captured but couldn’t she be irritating ??”

“Poppy (was) attractive and vivacious but a bit (too) much of a good thing.”

“The blurb was right – Poppy was irritating (and) this [her] character overdone. Still, this was a powerful film as well as being entertaining – victimisation in several forms.”

“Entertaining but Poppy’s relentless cheerfulness was a bit wearing.”

“Did Poppy suffer from ADD, perhaps? The scenery from the boat (was) lovely, though.”

“The driving instructor told her the truth but we still couldn’t help liking Poppy’s joie de vivre and Scott’s contrasting bitterness and anger. She didn’t manage to get his problems out.”

“Like life – no real beginning and (no) end to the story. I wonder how Scott got on with his!”

“Not the schooling I remember!”

“Still managed to be Mike Leigh at his normal standard, in spite of the change of material.”

“Great film – annoying woman – annoying score”

“Quite fun but a bit irritating.”

“A bit too long. Sometimes the dialogue was too contrived.”

“I hoped for more of a twist at the end, when the driving instructor had a go at her but instead (the film) rather fizzled out.”

“Very poor to start with – very cliched plot and predictable dialogue. (Film) picked up a bit later on.”

“At times, the acting descended into ‘ham(ming)’: otherwise good second(ary) characters.”

“1hr 50mins (of) rubbish – 10mins (of) good stuff”


A:21, B:28, C:7, D:1, E:0 to give 80%