catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 8, Num 7 :: 2009.03.27 — 2009.04.10


Buoyant optimism

Poppy is a perpetual optimist out to brighten the lives of all around her. Her optimism, however, does not cheer all irritating, bookish store clerks and angry driving instructors. Is Poppy’s joy pathological? Is she broken and in need of fixing? Is she stuck or exactly where she wants to be?

Poppy (Sally Hawkins) is a fascinating character in one of 2008’s best films. Director Mike Leigh has fashioned, in his usual manner, a character study more concerned with conversation and the nuance of human interaction than plotting. You may find yourself impatient for the first twenty minutes or so, tapping your feet and asking, “Where’s the plot?  And who is this crazy lady?” But when Poppy leaves her circle of club hopping pals and meets her foil, the deadly serious driving instructor Scott (Eddie Marsan), the film takes off. As the two clash – Poppy with her loud dress and barrage of silliness and Scott with his barely contained rage – Poppy’s character sharpens.

Poppy at first appears oblivious to the pain of others, but we begin to learn the method to her seeming madness. She desires to heal the broken and we see her give fully of her spirit to the broken and hurt. When a more quiet individual, a man who also helps those in need, spots Poppy, he finds a kindred spirit. He notices her healing grace almost immediately.

This is not a heavily plotted film. It is largely a collection of scenes in which personalities collide. The final exchanges between Poppy and Scott are highly engrossing and it is in these moments that we realize how deeply we have come to care about Poppy’s world and all the flawed individuals in it. Leigh has created a film full of grace and forgiveness in which flaws are observed more than chastised. He wants us to know his characters, not judge them. It’s a lovely movie and is the rare film that nourishes the spirit. I am happy I met Poppy and look forward to returning to her world.

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