The popular American preacher and teacher Norman Vincent Peale was a big fan of enthusiasm: "There is real magic in enthusiasm. It spells the difference between mediocrity and accomplishment. It gives warmth and good feeling to all your personal relationships." He especially likes its ability to bring people together. "Your enthusiasm will be infectious, stimulating and attractive to others," Peale tells us. "They will love you for it. They will go for you and with you."
Mike Leigh is an English writer and director who has made many extraordinary films about people who are down-and-out and struggle just to get by on a day-to-day basis. Happy-Go-Lucky is the cheeriest story he has ever made, and it is one that will lift your spirits and leave an indelible impression of the spiritual capacities of enthusiasm.
Our first view of 30-year-old Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is of her pedaling through the streets of London on her bike. We immediately notice the smile on her face and the fact that she is like a playful child having a good time. She enters a bookstore and tries to share some of her delight in being with a sour clerk but he will have none of it. Poppy doesn't let this lack of response deflate her happiness. But she is somewhat miffed when she discovers that her bike has been stolen.
Poppy is a teacher of young children in a London school. She lives with Zoe (Alexis Zegerman), another teacher and her best friend whom she has known for ten years. When they were younger they traveled and taught in the Far East. They go dancing and drinking with Poppy's younger sister Suzy (Kate O'Flynn) and some other women. They all enjoy each other's company. Poppy also has found a perfect exercise that matches her energy and spunk: jumping on a trampoline.
The protagonist in this thoroughly entertaining drama lights up the lives of those she encounters. A black osteopath who adjusts her back finds her to be very grateful for his touch and skills. She tolerates the anger of a passionate flamenco teacher (Karina Fernandez). A young boy at school who is tormenting other kids discovers she's a sympathetic soul. And in a perfect example of her kindness, Poppy demonstrates the spiritual practice of listening and being truly present in her encounter with a homeless man who has trouble expressing himself. On her first date in a long time with her school's social worker (Samuel Roukin), she is pleased to hear about his respect for her compassionate spirit.
But not everyone is enchanted with Poppy's enthusiasm and good will. Scott (Eddie Marsan), her driving instructor, is a controlling man who is set in his ways of teaching. He can't stand the fancy boots she wears, her lack of focus on the road, and what he sees as her immaturity and shallowness. By the third driving session, Scott includes her in his attack on the "system" and the chaos of modern life. Poppy also doesn't do all that well during a visit to her negative pregnant sister (Caroline Martin), who is jealous of her free-spirited single lifestyle.
At one point, her flatmate Zoe says: "You can't make everybody happy." To which Poppy responds, "No harm in trying." If you are feeling sluggish, bored, or apathetic, Happy-Go-Lucky is the perfect antidote!