Since I’m blogging on happiness, I thought it would be a good idea to see the movie Happy-Go-Lucky, which was

Poppy being herself?

Poppy being herself.

released last October but only recently found its way to a theater in Fayetteville.  I guess the local theater owners knew it wouldn’t be a big draw here; there were a total of five people at the screening I attended, and two of them left midway through the film.  Happiness doesn’t seem to provide the draw that war, crime, and other assorted forms of violence do.

If the film is any indication, happiness has very limited narrative possibilities.  The main character of the movie, Poppy (played by Sally Hawkins), is a 30-year old London schoolteacher who seems to enjoy immensely nearly everything she does.  She likes drinking and raving with her roommate Zoe and sister Suzy, even though Suzy is as unrelentingly glum as Poppy is chipper.  She likes bouncing on a trampoline and taking flamenco lessons.  She likes teaching, especially enjoying it when she and her elementary school class make and then don bird costumes.  She likes riding her bike through London—or rather liked it, since the bike is stolen at the beginning of the film.  Even the theft doesn’t disturb her good spirits, though; she redeems the loss by deciding that it gives her a good excuse to learn how to drive a car.  Scott, her driving instructor, is her opposite—suspicious in contrast to her trustfulness, pessimistic in contrast to her optimism, rigid in contrast to her flexibility, and intense in contrast to her easygoing manner.  She has an insouciant attitude towards driving, as she does towards everything else, and Scott grows increasingly more unhinged as his efforts to  control his wayward pupil fail. 

That’s pretty much the plot.  Will Poppy be brought low by Scott’s hostility?  Will she be disturbed by a student in her class who is bullying the others?  Will she feel inadequate when her youngest sister faults her for not taking on a mortgage or some other symbol of sobriety and maturity?  Not a chance.  She isn’t immune to what others say or do, but she’s chosen how she will approach life, and she sticks to it.  She’s forever cheerful and imperturbable, which gives little for the plot to address.  The bands of dramatic tension having fallen slack, the movie pretty much drifts from one scene to the next.  The film is like life instead of being like the stories that most movies construct about life.  Frankly, I prefer the storytelling! 

Though Happy-Go-Lucky doesn’t tell much of a story, Poppy is an interesting example of a happy person.  As several reviewers of the movie have commented, her happiness isn’t a result of cluelessness, but of a consciously chosen approach to life. I think there are several things she does that contribute to her happiness, but even more contribute to a well-lived life, irregardless of whether that life brings happiness or not.  I see her as striving for eudiamonia more than for happiness.  I’ll describe what I see as the key elements of her approach to life in my next post.