Are you happy with your life?When we talk about movie masterpieces, what usually come to mind are epic works that wow us with their scale, pictures that spring from grand ambitions and even grander budgets. But it takes more than ambition, and more than money, to make an intimate masterpiece like Mike Leigh's "Happy-Go-Lucky," a picture so seemingly light that it might be hours (or even days) before you realize how deep and rich it really is. Made in characteristic Leigh fashion -- instead of following a strict script, the actors develop the characters through improvisational sessions -- "Happy-Go-Lucky" has no plot to speak of. Whatever story there is develops as a result of our deepening connection with the lead character, an unceasingly optimistic North London primary-school teacher named Poppy (Sally Hawkins), whose cheerfulness isn't a way of hiding from a chaotic, sometimes hostile world but a means of facing it. Leigh sets himself up for failure right there: Who wants to see movies about happy people? Misery, stress and confusion are the stuff of dramatic tension. But Leigh and his actors work mysterious magic in "Happy-Go-Lucky." This is a movie about hitting the groove of everyday life and, nearly miraculously, getting music out of it (from Salon review below).
See Happy Go Lucky website
Read reviews by Salon and Slate
Questions For Discussion
- Describe the importance/foreshadowing of the opening bookstore scene.
- Happy Go Lucky is about a handful of people and how they respond to life; a character versus plot-driven movie. Do you think this works as a movie? Why or why not?
- Any symbols in the movie? The bicycle? The car? The boots? What might these represent for the movie or the characters involved?
- “Poppy is an emotionally flat, shallow character.” “Poppy is a compassionate nuanced woman who allows herself to listen to the pain of others.” Discuss how these are true or not, or both. Do you think Poppy’s character develops?
- What do you think is the source of Poppy’s happiness?
- One reviewer said Poppy was an emotionally generous character. How do you see that develop in the movie?
- Life has a way of confronting people who take themselves too seriously. The bible talks about how God uses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise:
“But God chose the foolish things of this world to put the wise to shame. He chose the weak things of this world to put the powerful to shame. What the world thinks is worthless, useless, and nothing at all is what God has used to destroy what the world considers important. God did all this to keep anyone from bragging to him.” 1 Cor. 1:27-29
How does the movie reflect this passage?
What other scripture or bible stories does the movie evoke in you?
- The Slate review (above) says the movie doesn’t live up to the character [link to review]. The reviewer is suggesting that the scenes of vulnerability merely reveal the weakness of compassion and that nothing changes. Do you agree? Why or why not?
- In what ways do you see Christ’s life in Poppy’s?
- Poppy is a flawed person who has a deliberate philosophy about life and tried to follow that philosophy to the best of her ability. Does her story confront or encourage you to be faithful to your “calling”? Why or why not?
- How can we be open to hearing wisdom from someone who is irritating?
- Compare the teaching styles of Scott versus Poppy. How could Poppy see hope for Scott after the mess he made in their driving lessons?
- Describe how Poppy was an outsider. Could her gift to the world be really a gift if it were otherwise? Is that true for us as well?