Ever since I saw the poster image for the movie Happy-go-lucky, I have wanted to see it. There is something immediately inviting about the picture of Sally Hawkins playing the part of the protagonist Poppy. The open smile. The open gesture. The plastic bead necklace.
Last week I finally had the chance to borrow the DVD and am pleased to be able to say that the film delivered exactly what the poster had promised. Poppy is a delight to watch from start to finish. And although I couldn't really put my finger on the thread of a story plot, I was a happier, person with more of a bounce in my step after watching it.
Worlds are not in danger here. No one is killed. No banks are robbed. No dinosaurs are recreated. Poppy, her friends and her relatives are more or less unchanged from start to finish. The one person who changes is Scott, Poppy's driving instructor. So in a story-telling sense, he is the real protagonist. But that is not how it feels.
Confused? Sorry. That is what you get when you ask a structure-fixated writer to tell you about a film that is really about the audience spending a little time in the company of an extraordinary person.
That it works so well is testament to the superb acting and the director's achievement in co-creating these fascinating characters. Happy-go-lucky is a movie of the small, beautiful, everyday. It is a rare celebration of the breadth of the human spirit. And it is a reminder to writers such as myself to trust in what we are doing and not to feel the need to shoehorn a helicopter explosion into our screenplays.
Thank you Mike Leigh.