What a joy to see Poppy on the big screen after following the progress of the film over the past two years.
Hearing that Linda Niccol was on the lookout for a young woman with Down Syndrome to play the lead role in her film, I wondered whether there might be a local candidate.
Early in 2019, Niccol got in touch to let the Chronicle know that she had found her lead actor in Whanganui - her name was Libby Hunsdale, and she embodied the kind of determination and vivaciousness of the character Niccol had created.
Fast-forward through months of casting, rehearsals and filming in Paraparaumu while working around Covid-19 restrictions and Poppy has arrived.
Niccol wrote Poppy as a short story more than a decade ago and it has taken a while to achieve her goal of getting it to the screen, but the delay proved beneficial as it allowed time for Hunsdale to grow up and perfectly fill Poppy's overalls.
Poppy is unstoppable and being born with an extra chromosome is the least of her concerns as she ignores the grumpy old bloke at the AA centre making disparaging remarks about her ability to get a driver's licence.
Working with her despondent brother Dave in the family's automotive repair business, she carries on aligning wheels and checking brakes while he discourages her ambition to become his apprentice.
At night she swots the road code and nurtures her new romance with Luke (Seb Hunter) who has recently parted from his faithless, alcohol-vomiting girlfriend.
Hunter has also been waiting in the wings to play Luke it seems, as he is a perfect fit for the role and as an added bonus the boy sure can sing.
While the two youngest actors get to play our heartstrings and quite a bit of mischief with cars on the side, it is Ari Boyland as Dave who does the heavy lifting in this film.
Dave must bear the burdens of responsibility for running a family business, caring for his little sister (who is quite capable of taking care of herself, thanks Dave) and his debilitating sense of culpability for the deaths of their parents.
His descent into despair and alcoholism provides the weighty counterbalance to his sister's determination to follow her heart's desires and assert her independence.
He does it so well that we can't help but feel sympathy for the guy even while he's raining on Poppy's parade and destroying his own shot at happiness.
As Poppy introduces the lovely Sophia (Kali Kopae) from the AA centre into the frame, fortunes change fast.
And if all this wasn't enough, there are some authentic burn-outs and grunty engines for the petrol heads as well. Poppy is a perfect antidote for the winter blues.