Sunshine on Leith
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BASED on the Stephen Greenhorn stage hit of the same name, Sunshine On Leith may just supplant Mamma Mia! as the musical of choice for people who "don’t do musicals".
The film follows the stories of Davy (George Mackay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie), who have to re-learn how to live life in Edinburgh after coming home from serving in Afghanistan. Both struggle to learn to live a life outside the army and to deal with the everyday struggles of family, jobs and relationships.
In one scene, Davy visits an army buddy learning to walk again with prosthetic legs after injury in service. The friend asks Davy what he’s doing.
“Working in a call centre,” he says.
“And I thought I had it bad!” comes back the instant quip.
The theme will be familiar to many. The delightful twist is provided by the fact that the story is told through the lens of The Proclaimers’ back catalogue. Twins Charlie and Craig Reid are probably best known for the tub-thumping, feel-good anthem, I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles), exploited to maximum effect here.
The good news for musical sceptics is that The Proclaimers glorious songs span the gamut of emotions from the down-in-the-dumps lovelorn and hopeless to soaring-high-above-the-clouds glad to be alive. These songs are used brilliantly in the film and, in many cases, sung much, much better than the distinguished cast of Mamma Mia! managed with Abba’s gold dust hits.
Is it cheesy? Absolutely. But then aren’t most musicals? Isn’t that part of the charm? People don’t tend to burst out into song in public in everyday life unless either busking or alcohol is involved, so there’s a willing suspension of disbelief from the word go. Look out for a lovely Craig and Charlie cameo appearance as two punters shaking their heads in disapproval as the returning army buddies Davy and Ally dance their way down the street singing I’m On My Way.
Likewise, I’d defy even the dourest, sullenest Scot NOT to crack a smile as a pub full of Hibs fans help Ally lay the ground for a marriage proposal (to the backdrop of Let’s Get Married, naturally). I further defy the steeliest of hard men to keep hands from eyes for the duration of a film which pushes the emotional buttons with the gay abandon of a three-year-old gifted an Xbox at Christmas.
Talking of steely hard men, the casting of Peter Mullan as Davy’s dad, Rab, was a stroke of genius. He can’t sing to save his life: there’s more gravel in his rendition of Oh Jean than the average building site. But he does ‘Scottish’ better than anyone on the planet and, along with Little Voice star Jane Horrocks as Jean, adds some gravitas to the proceedings.
Parts of the movie were reportedly filmed in Glasgow, but it’s the Edinburgh cityscape which gets star billing as a backdrop in wide, screen-filling shots used to set the scene. Indeed it could be argued director Dexter Fletcher could have made a bit more of the capital city.
Sunshine On Leith may have its toe-curling moments but also manages to say more about what it is to be Scottish than, say, Braveheart. More importantly, it’s a lot of fun – and that rare beast, a family film that is actually likely to be enjoyed by the whole family. Go see!Sunshine On Leith is being screened at Eden Court until October 24 and is now in Vue Cinema, Inverness, Moray Playhouse in Elgin, Thurso Cinema and cinemas in Aberdeen.