Happy Go Lucky; comedy/ drama, UK, 2008; D: Mike Leigh, S: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman
Pauline "Poppy" is an untypically optimistic and childishly funny kindergarten teacher - and it seems a rare kind of a bird in the overall gloomy and pessimistic London. She shares a flat with her friend Zoe and often has a clash with people due to her carefree attitude, ranging from her pregnant sister Helen up to Scott, a grouchy car instructor.
After a long list of heavy dramas, Mike Liegh surprised a lot of film festivals with this untypically humorous film, a modern retelling of Eleanor H. Porter's "Pollyanna", obvious already in the heroine's similar name and attitude. "Happy-Go-Lucky" is a mixed bag: on one hand, such a refreshing theme involving a woman who is optimistic without boundaries should be praised in the sea of rigid movies where every protagonist is grumpy and pessimistic; but on the other hand, Poppy's cheerful nature is surprisingly inarticulate, disproportionate and uneven, which transmits onto the whole storyline experience. The biggest problem is that Poppy is simply too childish - instead of uplifting other cynical people, she just makes jokes about their behaviour. Instead of being positive, she is too often negative in a positive-optimistic way.
One of the few times where Leigh creates a perfect balance is when Poppy exits a store and finds her bicycle was stolen, but still maintains a smile on her face and says: "I didn't even have time to say goodbye!" or when she interacts with Tim, the social worker - the two of them create a perfect harmony (especially in the comical date where he jokes that only one of her eyes is beautiful) as opposed to other characters who seem to mismatch her, and thus it is a pity that the whole movie was not revolving about their love blossoming, instead of wasting its time on pointless episodes that do not connect in any way, such as the homeless man or the angry car instructor whose purpose was only reduced to a schematic clash between optimism and pessimism. Sally Hawkins won a Golden Globe and a New York Film critics Circle Award and is good in the role, yet it still seems that "Lucky" was not able to create a context or a believable 'magic of optimism', such as similar superior characters in superior films, like Truman Burbank, Chancey Gardiner, Gelsomina or Amelie.