Director: Mike Leigh
Year Released: 2008
Somewhat obnoxious but good-intentioned woman-child (Sally Hawkins in one of the best performances of the decade) - who happens to be a primary school teacher - tries to have fun, be the center of attention and be relentlessly upbeat, often to the dismay of other people, especially her irritable driving instructor. This is - for me - Leigh's best film since Secrets and Lies, a piercing character study about a woman who doesn't seem like she wants to 'grow up' by starting her own family, and whose fellow-feeling sometimes puts her in danger (in one askew scene, she tries giving money to a crazed derelict). The ultimate question is whether or not her behavior is an act or if it is a genuine expression of a social oddity, someone hopelessly optimistic in a time of great pessimism, where it's easy to think the worst of things. Leigh is also smart enough to maximize viewer involvement, giving out pieces here and there of his lead's past, refusing to address some of the most basic questions of her youth, her sexuality and whether or not her attempts to make everyone else happy are hiding an inability to make herself truly happy. We may never grow up, but we will most certainly grow old....