Film review: Happy Go Lucky

Title: Happy Go Lucky
Released: 2008
Director: Mike Leigh
Starring: Sally Hawkins, Alexis Zegerman, Andrea Riseborough

Happy Go Lucky is yet another beautifully realised film from Academy-award nominated, BAFTA-winning OBE Mike Leigh. He is undoubtedly a thoughtful film-maker. His movies are imbued with a sense of reality. Yet through the grit, cigarettes and cursing there are always unmistakably soft and feminine tones and themes. Leigh is also is a true auteur, writing most of his own screenplays. His amazing 2004 portrait of a sympathetic illegal abortionist, Vera Drake, is incredibly touching and beautifully portrayed, while retaining a strong sense of social commentary. In 1996’s Secrets and Lies, Leigh explores the shame felt by a working-class woman who had to give her mixed-ethnicity daughter up for adoption, in a less socially just time gone by. And in his pinnacle 1993 film, Naked, he wades through the ultimate in urban grit and grime to tell us stories from the perspective of a paranoid intellectual rapist, a nasty yuppie, and a couple of women fighting the patriarchial system by which they are surrounded. Then we have Happy Go Lucky, where the main character, Polly, played brilliantly by Sally Hawkins, epitomises compassion and feminine strength thoroughly. She is strong, but gentle. She stands up for herself, but will listen with empathy for everyone. She is happy go lucky, yet smart and gutsy. And rather than a flippant look at the life of some annoyingly upbeat teacher, which it so easily could have been, Happy Go Lucky is the portrayal of truly zen characteristics through a personification that everyone can easily identify with. You may think I’m overestimating things here. But I really believe the Polly is almost the embodiment of an enlightened person. Someone who will feel true compassion for people who mistreat her, because she understands that it is really them that are suffering, not her. Someone who will be strong, who believes in herself, who adores her loved ones, and takes life as something beautiftul to be worshiped. Considering eastern philosophy is characterised by what is thought of as ‘feminine’ traits (intuition and compassion, as opposed to the ‘masculine’ reason of the west) Leigh is, for me, a truly feminist and gloriously philosophical film maker, in both writing and treatment. He makes gorgeous, though-provoking, entertaining, feminine and fabulous films.

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