Poppy, the main character of Mike Leigh’s latest film, “Happy-Go-Lucky,” is a 30-year-old elementary school teacher who lives in London and who’s irrepressibly, almost unnaturally cheerful. As played by Sally Hawkins, she’s a fascinating and divisive figure, endearing to some and grating to others.
In the video below, Leigh and Hawkins, taking questions from the press at the New York Film Festival, insist that simply writing the character off as chipper is to be unfair to what Leigh has called his “anti-miserablist film”: “The thing about Poppy is that to describe her as being unadulterated[ly] happy is not really to understand her at all.”
Leigh defends a key scene in the film in which Poppy interacts with a homeless man she runs into while wandering at night, explaining that the segment is meant in part to demonstrate that the character is “not judgmental.”
And Hawkins and Leigh go into detail on the workings of Leigh’s famous improvisation-reliant filmmaking technique: