Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBBB.
United Kingdom, 2008. Film4, Ingenious Film Partners, Special Treats Production Company, Summit Entertainment, Thin Man Films, UK Film Council. Screenplay by Mike Leigh. Cinematography by Dick Pope. Produced by Simon Channing Williams. Music by Gary Yershon. Production Design by Mark Tildesley. Costume Design by Jacqueline Durran. Film Editing by Jim Clark. Academy Awards 2008. Boston Film Critics Awards 2008. Golden Globe Awards 2008. National Society of Film Critics Awards 2008. New York Film Critics Awards 2008. Online Film Critics Awards 2008. Toronto International Film Festival 2008.
Mike Leigh strikes gold yet again with this gorgeously uplifting tale of optimism and mirth. Plucky lass Poppy (Sally Hawkins in an outstanding performance) teaches young children, hangs out with her girlfriends and takes driving lessons with an astonishingly angry instructor (Eddie Marsan), the whole time up for a good laugh and never able to take anything too seriously. One might think that Poppy is simple or ignorant, but as the film progresses through experiences such as flamenco lessons, a Fellini-esque surreal encounter with a homeless man in a park, visits with family, etc., we see that she is actually a thoroughly responsible and aware human being whose natural gift to see the bright side of things simply cannot be quashed. The scene at her sister’s where Poppy gives her summation of her life is so moving and inspiring because her positive thinking is based on a loving but practical view of herself and the people around her. Formless in plot as plots go, the film is arresting and charismatic, kept buoyantly in the air by its lead star’s exquisite work and the strong acting by the cast surrounding her, plus Leigh’s dedication to making everything not real, but natural.