On the way back from Cuba I saw this recent Mike Leigh film. It is the one about this perky schoolteacher called Poppy (wonderfully played by Sally Hawkins) who is a bit… happy go lucky. It is meant to be Mike Leigh does comedy, and quite a bit of it is rather funny. Ultimately, though, I think the film does not quite work. Partly it seems to lack any real narrative focus. This might stem from Leigh's improvisational filmmaking style, as surely it must sometimes lead to films that meander along without really going anywhere.
The other problematic thing was that despite its general upbeat perkiness, it seemed to feel obliged to throw in the kind of big emotion scene that all Leigh films have. In this case it involved Poppy and her driving instructor, who awkwardly mutates from being comedically uptight to being a raving lunatic. Their big confrontation does make for a great scene, but it does rather sour the mood of the rest of the film, given how funny their previous scenes together are. As with Career Girls and the funny Welsh guy, I found myself wondering if a whole film about the driving instructor might actually have been more interesting.
I suppose the other problem with this film is that it never really addresses its own big question – is Poppy charming and delightful, or is she an incredibly annoying person who needs to calm down and start acting like a grown-up?
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