Monday, August 18, 2008

This Film Will Make You Happy*

"Happy-Go-Lucky", the latest film by Mike Leigh, is released on DVD today. Fuelled by positive reviews and pre-release hype, I rushed to see it on its debut in the cinema back in April and wasn't disappointed. It's the best film I've seen in years. Can't remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much at the cinema. I don't want to spoil the plot but it's a good kind-hearted, joyous, ethical sort of film about an almost supernaturally upbeat and happy primary school teacher called Poppy (Sally Hawkins) who lives in North London and the effect she has on the lives of the people around her - her sisters, her best friend and most entertainingly of all, her driving instructor (who is quite hilariously portrayed by Eddie Marsan). The film is a bit like "Amelie" in some ways, but if feels more real and less fantastical. I think Poppy is a great character; alert, aware, nobody's fool, and for all her chipper, sunny demeanour she has a wisdom and insight about her which is an enviable as her cheery outlook on life. Check out the rather strange, apparently interpolated scene where she encounters an Irish vagabond on some wasteland to see what I mean. That's a wonderful psychological rendering of the character and really elevates the film above mere corn. There's a sort of "dark underbelly" (clichéd film crit-speak ahoy!) to it all too. I won't add any spoilers at this point, and I'm not sure how to write about films without giving the game away...

Mike Leigh has a reputation for making grim dramas, but I've always thought he's a great director. "Abigail's Party" was a genuinely great piece of television. I finally got to see it last year when it was shown on BBC4 on the thirtieth anniversary of the original broadcast. It's well worth grabbing that DVD whenever you can also.

There's a short interview with Mike Leigh and Sally Hawkins here.

*Well, not necessarily. Some people find its lead character annoying. I don't get that from the film at all, though.