British director Mike Leigh is famed for his gloomy films, but Happy-Go-Lucky leaves critics smiling. The complex look at happiness stars Sally Hawkins as Poppy, a London teacher with a perpetually sunny outlook. "I wanted to throttle her at first," writes Peter Travers in Rolling Stone, but she'll "have her way with you," leaving you "enchanted, enraged to the point of madness and utterly dazzled."
Developed in Leigh's usual fashion—no firm script, actors creating characters through improv—it has "no plot to speak of," writes Stephanie Zacharek in Salon. The result is "so seemingly light that it might be hours (or even days) before you realize how deep and rich it really is." Too often in movies, "happiness is for suckers and Disney Inc.," writes Manohla Dargis in the New York Times. But in life, it's "a complicated, difficult matter, and in Happy-Go-Lucky it’s also a question of faith."