Mike Leigh’s last outing was the relentless depressing and despairing Vera Drake (2005). With Happy-Go-Lucky he pulls a 180 and introduces us to the deliriously optimistic Poppy Cross (Sally Hawkins) whose first thought at discovering her beloved bicycle has been stolen is, “I didn’t even get to say good-bye!”
Without her wheels, Poppy accepts that at 30, it is time to learn to drive and organises an instructor to give her weekly lessons. Scott (Eddie Marsan, best known for his baddie roles in Hancock and Mission: Impossible III) is miserable and unlucky, stuck in a life he never wanted because other people have always been out to get him. Surly and cranky, he is the antithesis of Poppy. While she doesn’t give him a second thought, each week she gets under his skin and on his nerves just a little bit more – so much so, she suspects he might be stalking her just a little.
Poppy lives with her best mate Zoe (Alexis Zegerman) also a primary school teacher. They plan lessons, big nights out and scheme over how to meet Mr Right – both of them fending off family pressures to marry and settle down, defiantly happy with their lives as self sufficient, independent women.
But in the midst of this happiness, Poppy has occasional moments wondering what her life is really all about. She finds herself needling Scott, deliberately taunting him over his catch phrase, “En-ra-ha,” not realising she might be pushing him over the edge.
Happy-Go-Lucky is a rare film, absolutely joyous, but so rooted in the reality of day-to-day life it never feels false or forced. Mike Leigh and Sally Hawkins form a perfect team, coming up with possibly my favourite movie of the year.
Special features include: Behind the Wheel, a making-of doco on how Hawkins and Marsan did all the driving themselves; a featurette on the key characters; plus an image gallery and the trailer.