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DVD Review

DVD cover



Starring: Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman and Sylvestra Le Touzel
Momentum Pictures
RRP: £19.99
Certificate: 15
Available 18 August 2008

Poppy is a consistently cheerful primary school teacher, who doesn't let anyone or anything get her down. A free spirit, she is open and generous - as funny and anarchic as she is focused and responsible. When Poppy starts to learn how to drive she tries to spread some sunshine over her new driving instructor, Scott. He's having none of it, though - the grumpy, aggressive neurotic man is the complete antithesis of Poppy, and their relationship forms the backbone of this movie...

Happy-Go-Lucky is another slice of live as seen through the eyes of director Mike Leigh. As with all of Leigh's work, it won't to be to everyone's tastes. The realism and finding humour in down-to-earth, everyday events can be as depressing as it is funny at times.

I found the film to be one of Leigh's best - up there with the TV play Abigail's Party, and his movie Nuts in May. There's also more obvious humour in this than some of his previous works like High Hopes, but this is probably down to the fact that the audience falls in love with happy-go-lucky Poppy and her unique take on the world.

When the movie opens Poppy appears to be a bit of a naive, away-with-the-fairies character. She seems to not live in the real world. But, over the course of the movie it soon becomes apparent that she does live in the real world and isn't shy of confronting every obstacle head on - unlike the rest of the characters, as well as the audience.

When confronted by a mumbling tramp whose obviously lost his mind, most of us would walk quickly by. Not Poppy. She chats to him, listens to him and even follows him when he wants to show her something. Like, I suspect, most of the audience, I was left cringing, waiting for something bad to happen. It's a mad tramp! Surely a lone woman is inviting trouble on herself stopping in such a secluded area. But, as in reality, there's no threat. The tramp is harmless. It was also interesting to see how Poppy speaks to him too. Not, as I suspect most of us would, like a small child, but as an equal - which he is.

Her relationship with Scott, her driving instructor, is where most of the humour is centred. Scott (played with real conviction by Eddie Marsan) is not a pleasant character at all. He's opinionated, hates everyone and is a bit of a loser (sadly I saw horrible glimpses of myself in the character too - much to my girlfriends delight). He hates in others all the things that are his biggest character flaws.

Poppy is an enigma to Scott. He can't fathom her out. She breaks all the rules he tries to set (like his insistence that she wear sensible shoes to drive in); finds humour in everything, and listens to all of his rantings before light-heartedly poking fun at him.

As we get a glimpse into Poppy's life, her friends, family and work, it soon becomes apparent that the world would be a much better place if there were more Poppys and a lot less Scotts.

Extras include Behind the Wheel (4 min, 26 sec featurette that examines how the driving sequences were filmed and looks at Scott and Poppy's relationship); Mike Leigh's Characters (27 min, 22 sec look at how Leigh immerses his actors into their characters so that when they are on set they know the character inside and out. This is a fascinating insight into the way Leigh works - and you can't argue with the results); and the movie's theatrical trailer. It's a shame that there isn't an audio commentary with Leigh, as I'm sure he'd add a lot more insight into this movie, as he does in his segments on the extras.

Another slice of life Mike Leigh style. A joy from start to end.


Darren Rea

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