A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that, despite its "R" rating, there's very little offensive or upsetting material in this British comedy. With the exception of one profanity-filled, angry outburst near the end of the movie, the salty language is mostly a means of colorful, humorous expression. The young professional female characters do drink socially -- and get very drunk once -- but they don't engage in irresponsible behavior. Sexuality is limited to some playful teasing among the young women and one scene between adults who kiss, begin to undress, and sink onto a bed. A chance encounter between the heroine and a mentally ill homeless man is scary for a few moments but resolves without violence. She also has to deal with the explosive jealousy of an unstable admirer.
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What's the story?
Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a primary school teacher in North London. She's funny, almost blindly optimistic, and, of course, "happy go lucky." She has a busy life, surrounded by adoring (though slightly disbelieving) family and friends. When her bike is stolen, Poppy takes driving lessons. She also enrolls in a Flamenco dance class, notices that one of the young boys in her class has had some disturbing changes in behavior, encounters a mentally ill homeless man, and meets an appealing social worker. That's it. Those vignettes provide the structure that tells Poppy's story in HAPPY-GO-LUCKY.
Is it any good?
This is a movie with serious undercurrents and a dazzling performance by Hawkins. Director Mike Leigh -- who's well-known for constructing his movies from an idea, a sharp eye for extraordinary actors, and six months of improvisation and "rehearsal" -- has moved away from the serious subjects of his recent past (Vera Drake) to make what appears at first glance to be a frothy comedy. But there's much more to Happy-Go-Lucky.
Just beneath the surface of what seems to be Poppy's unwavering good spirit lies a wise, sensitive, and courageous young woman. She works hard, parties hard, yearns for a fulfilling relationship, and encounters evidence of the anger and pathology of strangers that could be around any corner. She's one of those people who's not afraid to look -- or to help. Nothing less than the profound question of how happiness is possible in today's world is at the heart of this film. Poppy's answer? It's a choice.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about what the movie means by "happy go lucky." Do you have to be naïve and unaware of the world's problems in order to be "happy"? How did the movie show that always trying to see life's bright side didn't mean that Poppy wasn't responsible and intelligent as well? What kind of choices did she make when facing angry or unhappy people? Were they good choices? Why or why not? Can you understand why some people were annoyed by Poppy's sunny personality?