Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

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Released 18-Aug-2009

Cover Art

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Details At A Glance

General Extras
Category Comedy Drama Audio Commentary-Director Mike Leigh
Interviews-Cast & Crew-(25.11)
Featurette-Behind The Scenes-Behind the Wheel (4.28)
Theatrical Trailer-(1.54)
Rating Rated M
Year Of Production 2008
Running Time 114:00
RSDL / Flipper Dual Layered Cast & Crew
Start Up Menu
Region Coding 4 Directed By Mike Leigh

Madman Entertainment
Starring Sally Hawkins
Elliot Cowan
Alexis Zegerman
Andrea Riseborough
Sinead Matthews
Kate O'Flynn
Sarah Niles
Eddie Marsan
Joseph Kloska
Sylvestra Le Touzel
Case Amaray-Transparent
RPI $29.95 Music Gary Yershon

Video Audio
Pan & Scan/Full Frame None English Dolby Digital 5.1 (448Kb/s)
English Audio Commentary Dolby Digital 2.0 (224Kb/s)
Widescreen Aspect Ratio 2.35:1
16x9 Enhancement
16x9 Enhanced
Video Format 576i (PAL)
Original Aspect Ratio 2.35:1 Miscellaneous
Jacket Pictures No
Subtitles None Smoking No
Annoying Product Placement No
Action In or After Credits No

NOTE: The Profanity Filter is ON. Turn it off here.

Plot Synopsis

   British director Mike Leigh has made film after film where his class constricted characters have barely managed a wry smile. It is therefore a surprise and a joy to see Happy-Go-Lucky where the main character, Poppy, is a well of unbridled optimism. Despite the occasional sometimes emphatic set-back Poppy refuses to be brought down by her surroundings and her problems.

    Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a young primary school teacher living in sunny London. She is a very special, very individualistic person. In the commentary track on this DVD by Mike Leigh he says quite frankly, at the 8.00 minute mark of the film, : "Am I going to be able to spend the next two hours with this person?" For Poppy is so exuberant and positive that she could get on your nerves in 2 minutes flat. It is a great tribute to Leigh and the marvellous Sally Hawkins that she not only makes us stay but to fall in love with this character.

    After a visit to a bookstore Poppy emerges to find that her bicycle has been stolen. "I didn't even get to say goodbye!" she muses, before moving right along. The loss of the bike forces Poppy to take the next step - she has to learn how to drive. Her driving teacher, Scott (Eddie Marsan), is from the furthest planet in the universe away from Poppyworld. He is a deeply religious, deeply conflicted, severely bitter and angry man. He sees in Poppy everything that is wrong with the modern world. She talks incessantly, refuses to wear sensible shoes whilst driving and lacks everything in the seriousness department.

    Poppy's story is one of friendship with her little sister, the older sister having become a class traitor living away, and her best friend fellow teacher Zoe (Alexis Zegerman). When a boy at school is being bullied Poppy calls in a social worker, the good looking Tim (Samuel Roukin), and the pair form a relationship.

    The film is about teaching and learning and Leigh draws fine performances from his cast. Poppy is the eternal optimist and yet she knows how to push people's buttons. She immediately sets about trying to joke her way into the mind of Scott unable to realise that her jokes and niggles are causing a deep crisis in his personality. Leighs films can sometimes be a bracing examination of the classes. Naked was a prime example of the empty heart at the core of modern British society. Happy-Go-Lucky is no sell out - there is drama and a class consciousness running through it. Yet is is Leigh light for those who want a more gentle Friday night than a harrowing drama.

    The performances of Hawkins, Marsan and Zegerman have been internationally recognised. Hawkins has picked up a swag of Best Actress awards including a Golden Globe in the comedy/musical category and the top gong from the Berlin Film Festival. In a tight Oscars race last year she missed out on a nomination although Leigh received a nomination for his screenplay. This nod is a recognition of the interesting manner in which Leigh works. He develops his characters and rehearses without a script, introducing the characters to each other as they would have met in "real life", then derives a script from these interchanges. The result is complex, detailed performances that crackle with life. Marsan is quoted as saying that his character development, prior to meeting Poppy, made him think that the film was a deadly serious drama.

    Even those who are not fans of Leigh will find something to like in Happy-Go-Lucky. The improvised nature of the film means that the plotting is somewhat loose but the dramatic interchanges are biting, funny and accurate. This is not a neat film - but it is a very good one!

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Transfer Quality


   Happy-Go-Lucky was shot on 35mm film and projected cinematically at a 2.35:1 aspect ratio. This DVD preserves that ratio and it is 16x9 enhanced.

    In the director's commentary Leigh explains that this is his first widescreen film. He shot it like this as the film is motivated by "the spirit of Poppy", meaning her expansive character. He also made a decision to film it with bold colours rather than the usual drabs of working class England.

    The film is bright and the colours are bold and well defined. The image is sharp and rarely betrays the low budget origins.

    The flesh tones are accurate right down to Scott's yellowed bottom teeth!

    There are no technical defects with the transfer. No hint of compression and no artefacts or blemishes on the print.

    There are no subtitles.

Video Ratings Summary
Shadow Detail
Film-To-Video Artefacts
Film Artefacts


   Happy-Go-Lucky comes with a Dolby Digital 5.1 track running at 448Kb/s.

    The dialogue is cleanly and clearly delivered. Although the presence of a surround track is always welcome there is not really a lot of ambient and surround sound going on, nor is there much for the sub-woofer to do. That is not a criticism of this soundtrack though.

    The dialogue is in perfect audio sync.

    The soundtrack is by Garry Yershon who uses brass and woodwind as well as wistful string to convey a sense of jaunty, quiet optimism.

    Other music is by various artists. A Mike Leigh "theme tune" Common People by Pulp appears in a nightclub scene due to the mutual admiration between Leigh and Pulp's Jarvis Cocker.

Audio Ratings Summary
Audio Sync
Surround Channel Use


Audio Commentary - Director Mike Leigh

    Mike Leigh is never short of a comment. He is droll and illuminating. His commentary track is very detailed as to the whole of the film including the rehearsal process, the filming and the ideas behind the film. He likes to approach the film as we do as viewers. This is helpful in picking up things you missed without ever dropping into the "Now Poppy walks into the room" style of commentary.

Interviews-Cast & Crew (25.11)

    The interviews are quite detailed. Leigh takes up the bulk of the interview time , explaining the background to the character development and his directorial process. Actors Hawkins, Marsan and Zegerman give insight into their own development process highlighting the joy for actors at being given the change to originate their roles. There is also a short bit from the producer and the make-up lady. Well worth watching.

Behind the Wheel (4.28)

    Leigh wanted the driving scenes to be very realistic hence he quickly dismissed the idea of using a flatbed truck for these wonderful moments. So he set his cameras up in the car and and crammed his frame into the back seat. The result is scenes that are true to life. The actors also comment elsewhere that this helped them in their performances and the looks offer in some scenes were very true!

Theatrical Trailer (1.54)

    An ideal trailer for the film.

R4 vs R1

NOTE: To view non-R4 releases, your equipment needs to be multi-zone compatible and usually also NTSC compatible.

    This DVD has been released in an identical format throughout the world, almost uniformly in the correct aspect ratio. For some reason the featurette here simply called "Interviews with cast etc" is called "Happy-In-Character" in other Regions.


   Happy-Go-Lucky is a tour-de-force of genuine acting and a tale both bracing and heartwarming of a group of special, sometimes disturbed characters. The improvisatory process may have taken away the rigidity of a plot structure but the story survives due to the true to life nature of the characters.

    The transfer and sound quality are fine and the extras on the DVD are a perfect complement to this wonderful film.

Ratings (out of 5)


© Trevor Darge (read my bio)
Monday, October 19, 2009
Review Equipment
DVDPioneer BDP-LX70A Blu-ray Player, using HDMI output
DisplayPioneer PDP-5000EX. This display device has not been calibrated. This display device is 16x9 capable. This display device has a maximum native resolution of 1080p.
Audio DecoderBuilt in to amplifier/receiver. Calibrated with Ultimate DVD Platinum.
AmplificationOnkyo TX-SR605
SpeakersJBL 5.1 Surround and Subwoofer

Other Reviews NONE
Comments (Add)
Love this film but can you explain my dvd? -