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British Film Review: Sunshine On Leith
Review By Freda Cooper
Avoiding the cliché about buses, this Friday sees the release of no less than three Scottish movies in UK cinemas – Sunshine On Leith, Filth and For Those In Peril. And, while two of them are set in Edinburgh, all three are as alike as haggis and hay.
Sunshine On Leith is the unashamed feel-good member of the trio. A musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers, it’s the story of two army buddies, Davy and Ally, who return from Afghanistan to their home of Leith to re-kindle old relationships and start new ones. At the same time, Davy’s parents are planning their silver wedding anniversary. Everything looks rosy, until the night of the party – and then everybody’s hopes and dreams start to unravel.
North London geezer Dexter Fletcher isn’t the most obvious of choices to direct a film set in Leith and based on the music of one of the most identifiably Scottish bands of all time. But it doesn’t seem to matter. He’s adept at getting likeable performances from the younger members of the cast, including a very cute and knowing little boy who seems to have born aged 40. The large scale musical numbers (Over And Done With, Oh Jean) are well choreographed and orchestrated, even if the final I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) seems to have jumped onto the big screen straight from Glee.
He doesn’t fare quite so well with the bigger names in the cast. Peter Mullan is cast against type as the father of the family but it doesn’t really stretch him and the sight of British cinema’s favourite hard man bursting into song is more than a little incongruous. Jane Horrocks is equally underused as his wife, complete with a slightly suspect Scottish accent, and poor Jason Flemyng is lumbered the total non-role of her boss, a part that seems to have been created purely for one song and dance routine. And, bless him, he’s not that good a dancer.
All the cast do their own singing – yes, Peter Mullan included – and, in the main, are passable. The exception is Antonia Thomas, who plays Davy’s English girlfriend, who has a really strong voice.
It is as contrived as they come. But that’s what happens when you build a musical around the songs of one band - think Mama Mia – and work within the musical format. The contrivance is stretched rather thinly at times – for instance, Ally’s girlfriend goes to work in Florida, purely so that Letter From America can be included. And it does make for a predictable watch.
Ultimately, Sunshine On Leith is feel-good family fodder. You could safely take your gran and she’d probably love it. Chances are she’d need a tissue or two as well. And you’d all leave the cinema singing the songs. But that’s because you know them already.
Sunshine On Leith is released in UK cinemas on Friday, 4 October.
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