So I've been sick, and have spent my time watching a LOT of movies. The best (by far) I hadn't seen before was Happy-Go-Lucky (2008) directed and written by Mike Leigh who also wrote and directed Secrets and Lies (1996) another film I really like, but haven't seen in years. Happy-Go-Lucky stars Sally Hawkins as Poppy, an optimistic English school teacher who loves life and the people in it, no matter their occasional unwillingness to play along.
Normally when I want to be put in a cheery mood, I go for a romantic comedy (Fred Astaire, Audrey Hepburn, etc). I personally don't come across many sweet, happy movies that don't involve a happy romantic ending. I am also a connoisseuse of the female power film (if you can call them that....) but few of those leave you REALLY truly happy at the end. Usually those films (I'm talking things like Shirley Valentine (1989), The First Wives Club (1996), Sweet Charity (1969), An Unmarried Woman (1978)) are really great, but there's still a hint of a feeling at the end: these women are alone in the world somehow, unless they keep finding love. Sure, sure they're all optimistically looking into the future, and their relationships with friends and family might be there to a degree, but a part of me is left looking at these heroines, wondering, "Will she be all right?" once the credits start to roll. The movie Happy-Go-Lucky isn't about finding love and holding onto it, it's about giving love and being happy and grateful for life itself, finding the fun, the joy, experiencing it. At the end of this movie, I am not worried that Poppy won't survive if her new relationship fails. I'm not worried that she'll lose hope and be left alone. Poppy has faith in the world around her and faith in herself no matter the day of the week. What's more, I think the friend love story in this film is so believable and endearing, so beautiful. On a sidenote, it's funny because Sally Hawkins reminds me physically of Parker Posey but they play such totally different characters. If you're looking for a depressed girl romantic comedy to play double feature to this, I suggest Broken English (2007).