The main character is a 30-year-old bachelor woman, Pauline "Poppy" Cross (Sally Hawkins), who shares a London flat with her best friend Zoe, a fellow teacher. The film follows the misadventures of the happy-go-lucky teacher as she attempts to get a driver's license and deal with the daily issues of her life and her teaching career.
Tropes associated with this work:
- An Aesop: Have fun and enjoy life. But know that you can't necessarily make everyone else happy.
- Arc Words: "Yknow?" Poppy certainly seems to.
- Attention Deficit... Ooh, Shiny!: Scott accuses Poppy of this.
- Cloudcuckoolander: Poppy. She is upbeat when her bike is stolen, because she always wanted to get a driving licence. She also stuffs chicken fillets in her bra, because: "I like the way they make me feel. Like a natural woman." When drunk she is even more random than usual.
- Cluster F-Bomb: Scott when he breaks down.
- Conspiracy Theorist: Scott the driving instructor. 666! Pyramids! En-Ra-Ha!
- For Happiness: Poppy just wants everyone to be happy. But, as Zoe says in the end, "You can't make everyone happy!" - "There's no harm in trying, though, is there? Bring a smile to the world."
- Good Samaritan: Poppy, especially in her encounter with the homeless guy whom she offers help and listens to.
- Heterosexual Life-Partners: Poppy and Zoe. The even sleep in the same bed. And like to cuddle.
- It's All About Me: Scott accuses Poppy of being like this. Ironically, when he accuses her of knowing how to drive and only wanting to take driving lessons so she can flirt with him and drive him crazy, he comes off as this.
- Manic Pixie Dream Girl: The whole film is something of a deconstruction - Poppy doesn't realise the way her behaviour can look flirtatious to an uptight, frustrated older man, while he doesn't realise she's a real person and not his rescuing Blithe Spirit. Following their final confrontation, she seems subdued and thoughtful, implying she is mulling over the consequences Scott threw at her, which isn't a trait of Manic Pixie Dream Girls.
- Mistaken for Gay: Poppy jokes to Scott that she and Zoe are partners; unfortunately Scott has No Sense of Humour.
- Noble Profession: Poppy and her flatmate Zoe are shown as very capable primary school teachers. Especially Poppy lets her pupils have lots of fun in her lessons.
- No Sense of Humor: Scott. Poppy's younger sister (although she behaves like an older sister) Helen as well.
- Satellite Love Interest: Poppy's boyfriend is probably the least interesting person in the film.
- Serious Business: According to Scott, you can't have fun when learning driving a car
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Poppy is on the one end, Scott on the other. The movie observes what happens when they interact. Word of God states the movie leans more towards the idealistic side. Mike Leigh says the movie is "anti-miserablist".
- You're Just Jealous: says Suzy when Helen feels threatened by Poppy just being happy without being worried about having a husband, house or life insurance.