Sally Hawkins plays effervescent primary school teacher Poppy
British film Happy-Go-Lucky has been awarded four prizes by the National Society of Film Critics in the US.
Mike Leigh was named best director and screenwriter, while Sally Hawkins won best actress and Eddie Marsan picked up the best supporting actor honour.
Hollywood star Sean Penn scooped best actor for his role in Milk, while Israeli animation Waltz With Bashir went away with the best film trophy.
The prizes are some of the first in the lead up to the Oscars on 22 February.
Waltz With Bashir was up against Slumdog Millionaire, Milk and another animated feature, Wall-E, in the best film category.
Mike Leigh speaks to BBC News arts correspondent Razia Iqbal
Other winners included Hannah Schygulla, named best supporting actress for her role in The Edge of Heaven.
Man on Wire, which chronicles a daredevil's tightrope walk between the Twin Towers in New York 25 years ago, won best documentary.
Two films which are being touted for Academy Awards success, Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino and The Curious Tale of Benjamin Button starring Brad Pitt, failed to make the running.
The National Society of Film Critics is made up of reviewers from major US newspapers and magazines including Time.