In minute one of Happy-Go-Lucky the look on Sally Hawkins face is so happy and carefree that you expect her to break into song.
Chim Chim Cher-ee or The Sound of Music, or any catchy ditty will do.
Hawkins plays a young eternally optimistic schoolteacher named Poppy. She’s enthusiastic and bubbly to the point of irritating. There’s so much light in this young woman that she probably doesn’t need a flashlight in the dark.
There is no center to writer/director Mike Leigh’s story. It is just Poppy being happy here, Poppy being happy there. Experiences with the curmudgeon driving coach -- played wonderfully by character actor Eddie Marsan -- are the film’s best scenes and they drive the movie.
By nature, critics are pessimists. Pump a lot of sugar into a story and the gag reflex kicks into high gear. Leigh (Vera Drake) puts enough in this one to turn it into a refinery.
And yet it works. This is a charming character study that even managed to put a grin on this cynical critic’s face and keep it there.
Mr. Movie rating: 4 stars
Rated R for language, mature themes. It opens Dec. 5 at the Carmike 12.
5 stars to 4 1/2 stars: Must see on the big screen
4 stars to 3 1/2 stars: Good film, see it if it's your type of movie.
3 stars to 2 1/2 stars: Wait until it comes out on video.
2 stars to 1 star: Don't bother.
0 stars: Speaks for itself.