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Calling this a comedy oversimplifies Mike Leigh's film

Happy-Go-Lucky is being mis-sold as a comedy. This is because its main character, a young London primary teacher who goes by the nickname Poppy (Sally Hawkins), is an unbreakable optimist. In reality, Happy-Go-Lucky operates, like all Mike Leigh films, observing behaviour without judgment. Calling a Leigh film positive is as simplistic as calling his other films depressing. Happy-Go-Lucky's rounded view of the divergent moods of modern life is remarkable. Poppy's chipper attitude grates on the nerves of her dour driving instructor (Eddie Marsan). Their rapport---the upbeat working-class woman vs. the highly irritable---is basis for the most potent human drama in current cinema. Poppy can laugh at anything: Comedy is just tragedy from a different angle. Happy-Go-Lucky doesn't build to the resolution of a story. Each scene seeks understanding of these people. Leigh finds the drama in the everyday, showing us life as we know it.

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Vol 27, No 17
September 19, 2019

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