Picks and Pans Review: Happy-Go-Lucky

updated 10/20/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 10/20/2008 AT 01:00 AM EDT

Sally Hawkins, Eddie Marsan, Alexis Zegerman | R

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CRITIC'S CHOICE

COMEDY
Poppy (Hawkins), a primary school teacher in London, is happy darn near all the time. Initially, in this wonderful film by director-writer Mike Leigh (Vera Drake), Poppy's constant cheeriness verges on irritating. But that changes as you come to know her and her life, and see her deeply caring interactions with others, including a troubled pupil and an enraged driving instructor (Marsan). It becomes clear that Poppy has chosen to approach life optimistically—and it's a brave and moving decision. All long, fluttery limbs and infectious giggle, Hawkins (of last winter's PBS version of Jane Austen's Persuasion) dazzles in a radiant, star-making performance.

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