It’s kind of a miracle that this movie exists at all. Movies aren’t supposed to be about happy people; they’re supposed to be about messed up, suffering people with big problems and major worries. As a rule, cheerfulness, in the movies, is a coverup for something sinister and/or distasteful. Happy people are fakes.
So the miracle of “Happy-Go-Lucky” is that it is about a genuinely cheerful, authentically happy, woman. It is about her in the same way that countless indie movies are about miserable people. There’s not much of a plot, there’s mostly just a character. It is amazing – and a powerful testimony to the talents of actress Sally Hawkins as well as director and writer Mike Leigh — that she never, not even for a second, seems fake, or irritating, or shallow. Or, for that matter, puritanical or blind to the world. Her cheeriness is infectious, funny, engaging, warm, and real. And miraculous.
Set against her is Eddie Marsan, her driving instructor, who is the kind of guy who blows up government buildings. It is amazing – and hilarious – how smoothly and convincingly Marsan transitions from driving instructions to conspiracy theories. He names her rearview mirrors after three fallen angels, and constantly barks at her to keep her eyes on the “all-seeing eye.” Marsan didn’t get nominated for hardly anything, but this is the supporting actor performance of the year. (Instead, the Academy chose to nominate Robert Downey Jr. for his Danny Glover. impression in “Tropic Thunder.” Hmph.)
“Happy-Go-Lucky” is a most unlikely movie, but also a deeply funny, touching, and endearing one. And it’s a breath of fresh air. See it, if you can.