Film Review #1 Happy-Go-Lucky (2008)

Film Review by Nayoung Jin Date: Sep 30, 2019

I just watched Happy-Go-Lucky (2008).  It’s a realistic film about a female teacher living in London. 

First of all, I find it a hundred times better than Cindefella (1960), which I recently watched. Happy-Go-Lucky is well put together and the sense of realness/realism wowed me.  Compared to this film, Cindefella (1960) feels contrived and roughly put together (relatively speaking). 

Happy-go-Lucky has great visual energy, and it uses very carefully chosen visuals (It seems). It is concise, and is close to what I would like to make. It’s well concentrated and got flavor.  It uses pictures nicely to give sense of place and people and also what kind of the world the protagonist lives in.  And it feels more organic, too, and is much more consistent throughout, compared to Cindefella (1960).  So, I completely believe this world the writer has built. And I’d say it’s cinematic. 

I also saw some good examples of visual communication: telling something through facial expressions or gestures, as opposed to using words. 

It’s got a clear overall arc, and its moment of reveal/moment of answer/crisis/climax is well done, and is so convincing. . .and in a way it is almost like the Zoo Story by Edward Albee. So real and emotionally resonant–it hurts a bit. 

In this protagonist’s world, there seems to be Yin and Yang  (specifically, glum; dark; angry versus bright; cheery; positive) coexisting.  The protagonist acknowledges the hardship in people’s lives but doesn’t give in to the negative attitude. She keeps her cheery, bright, positive self.  She’s got this spirit. 

The dialogue is brief, snappy, lively, and raw. 

The back and forth between the driver and the protagonist is something to watch. It’s got a real spark. Their dynamic, and conflict is worth watching. A real drama in there. And there is a very clear structure, and then by the end, it feels resolved, and there is the final note (that feels like, ‘it’s a sad what happened with the driver and I can’t help him, but I’ll still be my cheery, happy self!’ Some kind of sad+ happy feel to it.) 

Great and realistic character differentiation (They are two very different people in terms of personality, attitude, gender, job …) Well, it’s not just that they are different people. It’s more like they are on the “two completely different wavelengths”. 

There’s a slowly built-up arc here. It’s clear, it’s great. It’s like a whole life is contained/condensed in these driving lessons, like in The Straight Story(1999), which by the way is another good film, a whole life seemed to be contained/condensed in the moments of the protagonist’s journey to brother’s home. The protagonist here was mostly riding his tractor.

When the driver couldn’t admit till the end that he was the one who ran when she called, it felt like he was a real human. And we get his pain and his humanity during the driving lessons the protagonist takes from him. 

And all the protagonist’s relationships and mystery are dealt in a way that is smooth and feels right. 

External pressures/forces challenge her. This brings emotional changes in her for the moment, which felt quite real (genuine I mean). But she is a resilient person and at the end, she stays true to herself. 

‘Oh, well, human conditions’/ ‘here are the human conditions’ – this film seems to say. Real people and real city are captured well, as if this film is created by a photographer who walked around in the city a whole lot. 

This film wasn’t profound or anything (I mean not too complex), but it rang true. Also, important/main relationships (from which the central dramatic conflict was generated) were fully explored, so!