DVD Review by Kam Williams
Headline: Sally Hawkins’ Tour-de-Force Released on DVD
Happy-Go-Lucky was easily the best British comedy of 2008, thanks primarily to Sally Hawkins’ scene-stealing performance. She dominates this delightful sitcom from beginning to end as Pauline “Poppy” Cross, a scatterbrained, primary school teacher with an infectious optimism which serves to endear her with almost everyone she encounters.
The person who most notably manages to resist her disarming charms is Scott (Eddie Marsan), the controlling, driving instructor she starts taking lessons with after her bike is stolen. Much of the movie’s mirth is milked from the simmering tension between the two during their sessions as they meander around London cooped up together in his tiny, company car.
For he’s a no-nonsense taskmaster who likes to do everything by the book, while the 30 year-old bachelorette is too freewheeling to allow her bubbly personality be stifled by an intimidating disciplinarian. Otherwise, it is obvious that friends, family, students, colleagues and even strangers tend to feel blessed by her upbeat energy.
Whether she’s helping a homeless man, lifting the spirits of her pregnant sister, disciplining a disruptive pupil showing or simply hanging out in a pub with the girls, Poppy’s positivity permeates the atmosphere. So, it’s no surprise when men take an interest in the pretty Pollyanna, especially Tim (Samuel Roukin), a sensitive social worker whose romantic overtures she entertains. The plot thickens when overbearing, ornery Scott notices her dating, belatedly begins to appreciate Poppy and suddenly experiences pangs of jealousy.
Which guy will she choose? Sorry, no hints here. Suffice to say getting there is as much fun as the amusing resolution. Directed by Mike Leigh, Happy-Go-Lucky represents a departure in tone for the six-time Oscar-nominee, whose name is generally closely linked with such sobering, class-conscious offerings as Secrets & Lies and Vera Drake.
Magically, Leigh proves equally evocative here handling relatively-lighthearted fare, spinning a whimsical, if thought-provoking tale with the help of the irrepressible Poppy, a most memorable character who might best be appraised as England’s answer to Amelie.
Excellent (4 stars)
Rated R for profanity.
Running time: 118 minutes
Studio: Miramax Home Entertainment
DVD Extras: Audio commentary by director Mike Leigh, plus a couple of featurettes.