Happy-Go-Lucky (Mike Leigh, 2008)
For a purportedly sunny trifle about a terminally chirpy primary school teacher, this pastel-coloured Mike Leigh joint cranks up some remarkable tension. Even if the film leaves an aftertaste of something airy, sweet and authentically lovely, it's unsettling in a primal way to watch the morbidly optimistic Sally Hawkins float from mild irritations to eerie threats to impending fiascos. Considering her optimism is only as much a sign of innocence as it is of desperation, to see it quashed would be devastating to the core. With charm and subtle mastery, Hawkins walks the fine line between irresistible and exasperating. She gets great support from an ensemble of brilliant, beautifully orchestrated character players. The film has an aura of honesty and lives lived without much outward fuss. Even after the credits, it's difficult to snap out of it.
To those wondering whether I'm still alive, and more importantly, attending MIFF - aren't you sweet? - it's a yes on both counts. I've already caught Rivette's very gorgeous Don't Touch the Axe/Duchess of Langeais. Comments to follow.