Honest to goodness: Finding virtue in ‘Happy-Go-Lucky’


susanna nelson

This article appeared in Screen Education Issue 65 (Autumn 2012).

A seam of oddball characters and misfits runs through much of Mike Leigh’s body of work – from the jittery chain-smoker Nicola (Jane Horrocks) in Life is Sweet (1991) to the arch misanthropist Johnny (David Thewlis) in Naked (1993). Leigh is the master of the character study film, documenting ordinary people who live their lives outside of the norm. Leigh’s recent comedy, Happy-Go-Lucky (2008), examines the life of Poppy (Sally Hawkins), a garrulous 30-year-old North London primary school teacher with a sunny disposition. Poppy has a close-knit bunch of friends, a healthy social life and she takes a running jump at most challenges in life armed with nothing but her cracking sense of humour and a belief that things will all work out for the best. It says something about the ever-evolving ‘norm’ that Leigh’s latest outcast is someone…

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