The moment the high-pitched woodwind instrument follows the bright character around the North London city streets enjoying every turn on her bicycle, the audience is set to love the sparkling character, Poppy, played by Sally Hawkins. Five years and several awards and nominations later, and the Mike Leigh film, Happy Go Lucky, continues to delight the audience.
What are the elements that have made this movie such a delectable classic? One reason could be that Leigh has an impeccable understanding of how to place the right combination of actors together who have a strong sense for character. He then guides the chemistry of the actors through improvisational meetings where each actor works off another’s art for dialogue. This is where Leigh’s quirky film is born.
Each actor had a certain mission to either contrast or enhance Poppy’s ecstatic behavior. Hawkins brings forth a wildness to her character Poppy, who seems to only play by the rules when she is conducting her primary school class of students. Alexis Zegerman, plays Poppy’s girlfriend and flat mate. Zegerman’s laid back persona easily grounds Poppy even at her most over-the-top moments.
Eddie Marsen was cast perfectly as the maniacal driving instructor who places the reflection of reality in front of the chipper main character with just one serious look or mean suggestion. Another character who gives the gleeful character a sense of place is Poppy’s boyfriend which is played by Joseph Kloska. He enters the movie midway, but adds a sense of realism with his moderate manner.
Then, the audience is treated to a character who takes Poppy’s oddball exterior and takes it up one more notch. Karina Hernandez, the flamenco dance instructor, torments her class with her seriousness for the arts, and places the finishing touch to the whimsical proceedings. With a large classy mix of simple story and kooky characters, it is easy to see why the audiences continue to love the low-budget treat, and why Mike Leigh continues to work with the same actors in other films as well.
Happy Go Lucky clip where Poppy begins her driving lessons with her strict instructor.
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