One of two films this year I’d call truly great, Happy-Go-Lucky (2008). It’s refreshing and rather unconventional to have a film about the life of a truly good person. It’s really the only way I could describe it, though imperfect, occasionally shrill, annoying and sometimes unaware, Poppy has the best intentions. And what I love is, it’s not a tragic story about the “road to hell being paved with good intentions”, as one character grunts… she actually does good. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a film about a person like Poppy, or even met anyone quite like her, but I can’t help believing someone like her exists. Persistently happy and caring in any situation, she never tries to change people, at most she wishes her own enthusiasm for life would rub off on others.
For a good part of the beginning of the film, there is a hint that she is perhaps insincere. She seems too happy, too cheerful, too playful… nobody could be “on” that often and for so long, but Poppy is. Soon the film’s layers begin to peel away, and her true passion for others comes across. For every moment she giggles uncontrollably, makes fun, or tells a playful joke, there are moments of incredible human connection and caring. It’s enough to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. It’s no wonder people fall for her so easily. Though accusations are thrown at her that she does everything she can to be loved, it’s more she’ll do anything in the world to show others that there is love in the world. It’s no wonder people are somehow calmed or endeared to her so easily. One particularly touching sequence, for reasons, even unknown to herself, Poppy approaches a homeless man who repeats himself endlessly. He’s taken aback at first, thinking perhaps that she’s mocking him, but there is a moment where you and him realise that she truly cares for the man, as she cares for anyone else in her immediate life. Poppy can only love, and it’s perhaps the greatest gift to the world. The homeless man doesn’t even know how to react to her emotion, seeming even to feel shame that some stranger would feel so deeply for him. Her actions never seem selfish or insistent… Poppy as I see her, is the human personification of good.
This is one of those few films that puts a jump in your step and lifts your spirits. The only other film I could think of that comes even close to it is Capra’s, It’s a Wonderful Life. They’re vitally different, in both approach and character, but both come back to vitally real good people. The whole cast is brilliant, but if Sally Hawkins isn’t acknowledged for her work, there is no justice in the world. It’s probably one of the most difficult type of roles any actor could play. It’s just astonishing.