Sunshine on Leith

Art & Culture

I had a strange experience with this film. I alternated between enjoying the characters and the drama, and being annoyed by the fact that the characters burst into song. It’s a musical – and I don’t like musicals – but by the end of the film, I surrendered.

Not quite “You had me at hello”, but something along those lines. You can’t argue with sentimental tears (mine) at the end of a movie, whatever your brain is saying.

The film opens inside an armoured personnel carrier in Afghanistan (unusual for a musical), where a bunch of squaddies are sitting nervously – though they soon start singing. Back in Edinburgh some time later, two of them have arrived home, and go to see their families. Davy (George Mackay) lives with his mum and dad (Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan) and his sister Liz, who is his mate Ally’s girlfriend. Everyone’s thrilled to see everyone, and Davy meets Liz’s friend Yvonne, and they hit it off like a house on fire. Rab and Jean (mum and dad) are about to celebrate their 25th anniversary, and everything is as cosy and wonderful as it can be.

But of course it’s not going to last, because there are a lot more Proclaimers songs to sing (the musical consists of their music) and they’re not all happy ones. Each of the three relationships described above develops problems, and maybe not all of them will survive. Though of course, I’m not telling.

This is the kind of film that that inspires adjectives like ‘heartwarming’, ‘feelgood’, ‘infectious’ and – if it’s a severe case of overkill – ‘life-affirming’. My suggestion would be ‘energetic’. It’s a film that sweeps you (me) along despite my reservations. I’m not a big Proclaimers fan (I didn’t recognise 90% of the songs), and I certainly object to people stopping talking every so often to start singing – because it seems to interrupt the natural flow of what seemed to me like interesting couple and family dynamics. Peter Mullan is – as always – a star turn. He brings a degree of emotional credibility to any part he plays, whether as a dangerous thug, or – in this case – a decent family man with a secret he is afraid will destroy his life. But the rest of the cast are also appealing and human. I particularly like George Mackay, who plays Davy. He looks like a young Kevin McKidd, and has an open and attractive face, so that – crucially – you care about what happens to him, and want things to work out.

And of course the whole shebang culminates in a big song and dance routine in the centre of Edinburgh where thousands sing along to “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” and we all go home feeling happy. The film is based on a stage musical of the same name, and will – I assume – be a huge hit in Scotland. I hope it does equally well here because as opposed to some great turgid ocean going tanker like Les Miserables  this is a light hearted delight which doesn’t require anyone’s teeth to be extracted. Grinning is the order of the day.

Phil Raby

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