With his latest effort, Happy-Go-Lucky, director Mike Leigh takes a departure from the dark mood evoked by most of his films with a charming little tale about an eternally optimistic school teacher, Poppy (Sally Hawkins, previously seen in smaller roles in Leigh's films Vera Drake and All or Nothing), who breezes through life, always seeing the glass half full. Poppy is one of those people who never seems to get down about anything. She smiles at surly strangers, strikes up conversations with people who'd clearly prefer to be left alone, and puts a positive spin on everything.
When her bike is stolen, Poppy shrugs it off and decides to take driving lessons; her driving instructor, Scott (Eddie Marsan, also a Leigh alum from Vera Drake) is Poppy's polar opposite. Some of the film's best moments are when she's interacting with Scott and we have the dramatic tension of his simmering anger to contrast with Poppy's perkiness. Scott is intensely uptight, seems to hate everyone and everything, and adheres firmly to the belief that if only everyone would follow a strict set of rules (his rules, of course), all would be well. Naturally, the two clash.