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I’ve just seen an excellent film – “Happy-go-lucky,” from the director Mike Leigh.  I knew of Leigh many years ago because he started in the theatre, writing plays after intense periods of improvisation with his actors.  He then moved on to film where he works the same way with spectacular results, as in, for example, the moving “Vera Drake” or “Topsy Turvy,” a beautiful film about Gilbert and Sullivan.

“Happy-go-lucky” is about a good person, Poppy, a woman without a cynical or sarcastic bone in her body who chooses to approach life openly and cheerfully.  The film explores the courage it takes to be the kind of person who doesn’t just chat sweetly with a grumpy storeowner who refuses to chat back, but who sits down to talk to a terrifyingly incoherent street person who has probably not felt that kind of attentiveness for years.  Poppy approaches her work as an elementary school teacher with joy and deals empathetically, lovingly, with the problems that arise there – a child who bullies others, who she finds out is being bullied himself, at home.  
And for those of us who are single women happy in their lives, it shows us a single woman profoundly happy in hers.  She has, as she points out to her neurotic pregnant younger sister, a job she loves and a roommate she adores.  “I love my freedom,” she says.  When she finds a man to love, she is on just as even a keel as when she finds a crazy man stalking her – she takes it all in her stride, love and fury and even finding that her beloved bicycle has been stolen, as I did a few months ago.  It’s a film about the courage and effort it takes to be open in a mad world, and to choose, despite everything, to be happy.  In the bucolic final moments, Poppy says to her roommate, “We are lucky, aren’t we?” 
“You choose your luck, don’t you,” Zoe replies. 
After the film I walked down Yonge Street to the College streetcar, thinking, as the wildness of the street roared around me, What kind of courage would it take for me to be open to this particular madness?  I am inspired by the film and its heroine, but perhaps I won’t start practicing my new openness on Yonge Street late on a rainy Thursday night.    



2 Responses to ““Happy-go-lucky””

  1. lb says:

    Yes, I loved the movie also, though I didn’t think I would. I sometimes think it takes more energy and courage to choose happiness than gloom. But just sometimes
    There but for fortune… and all that sort of thing.

  2. beth says:

    I think that’s exactly what the movie is showing – that it takes effort and determination to be cheerful and aware, to see the best in others rather than the worst. I think we are meant to grow impatient with Poppy as she sticks with her nearly psychotic driving teacher rather than ditching him instantly, as the rest of us would have done. As in the scene with the crazy homeless man, we are concerned that her blithe openness will do her in. But it’s a deliberate choice she makes to see things through, to pay attention, to look in people’s eyes and try to understand what’s there. I rarely want to see a film again, but I feel I should see this one regularly, to remind myself of what truly matters. A very important film.

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I began keeping a journal at the age of nine. Nearly fifty years later, I started this online journal, sharing reflections, reviews, updates, and the occasional secret.

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