I have to admit that all I knew about Leith, before looking it up on Google Maps, was that in the famous tongue-twister the police from there “dismissive up”. But it turns out that Leith is a port-based district of Edinburgh. And very picturesque it is too in Dexter Fletcher’s new musical “Sunshine on Leith”: an Edinburgh where rain seems to seldom fall.
Sunshine on Leith tells the story of Davy and Ally – two Scottish soldiers who sing their way into a roadside bomb in (presumably) Afghanistan in the first two minutes of the film. So far, so Iron Man. But from there, the film diverges – less Iron Man and more Irn Bru (arf!) – as Davy and Ally return to their lives and loves in Leith. Ally is dating Davy’s nurse sister Liz while Davy is invited on a blind date with Liz’s colleague Yvonne. Meanwhile, Davy and Liz’s parents are about to experience a seismic disturbance to their 25 year old marriage, following the revelation of some well hidden news from the past.
From the above synopsis, you might surmise – and be spot on – that the plot is a bit of a potboiler, bolted together from offcuts of Eastenders story lines. But it stands as much scrutiny as the plot from “Mamma Mia”, and actually the extremely catchy soundtrack, comprising songs from the Proclaimers, interweaves much more seamlessly with the plot than that Abba-led confection. Of course, anyone with even a passing knowledge of the Proclaimers discography will be seeing where the plot is going and predicting the link into the next song: nurse taking a new job in Miami? She is probably going to email home… but what if her email is broken and she has to write instead??? Hmm…. What is surprising is that the Proclaimers’ greatest party stopper – 10,000 miles – isn’t in the film. No – only kidding! And what a fantastic show-stopping number it is with its flash-mob Waverley station setting.
Overall you would have to have a pretty hard heart not to find this film pleasantly uplifting and feel-good. All of the cast, throw themselves into it with great vigour and the four young leads: George MacKay as Davy, Kevin Guthrie as Ally, Freya Mavor as Liz and Antonia Thomas as Yvonne throw themselves into the film with such energy and vim that you can’t help but get carried along. Antonia Thomas (from the TV show “Misfits” apparantly) in particular is luminous and has such a strong screen presence that you have to wonder if this film might do for her what “Bend it Like Beckham” did for Keira Knightley. A young lady to watch.
The parts of the parents – Jean and Rab – are played by the ever reliable Jane Horrocks (Little Voice) and Peter Mullan (War Horse, Harry Potter) – both very good in their roles. Jason Flemyng gets to go 90% Pierce Brosnan as the flamboyant museum creator with a crush on Jean.
In the technical category, much credit should go to cinematographer George Richmond who does a great job for the Edinburgh tourist board by making the city look drop dead gorgeous, and there are some stunning lighting shots – specifically the ‘revelation’ scene at the wedding anniversary and Jane Horrocks singing the title song reflected in a window.
On the negative side, it is difficult to understand many of the song lyrics due to the strong Scottish accents. I certainly felt some relief when English Antonia Thomas arrived and I could pick up every word she sang. And if this seems vaguely racist, the script throws enough barbs at the English during the film that I think a bit of comeback is in order.
Overall, if you loved Mamma Mia you will probably love this. It’s not bloody Shakespeare, but it is a pleasurable way to spend a couple of hours. And anything to encourage more musicals back into the cinema is to be welcomed.
Fad Rating: FFF.