Starring: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, Jason Flemyng
After a near fatal tour of Afghanistan, Davy (George McKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) return to their home city of Edinburgh to restart their lives. Ally hopes to develop his relationship with girlfriend Liz (Freyor Mavor), while she hopes to set up her best mate Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) with the hopeless in love Davy. All the while, Davy and Liz’s parents; Rab (Mullan) and Jean (Horricks) celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary, but revelations from Nab’s past force them re-evaluate their marriage. Naturally all involved have their own personal conflicts and obstacles that for some strange reason can be conveniently summed up by singing songs by The Proclaimers.
Ah yes, the musical based on the songs of one band where basically an extremely clunky plot is built around certain song titles! Well, Sunshine on Leith most certainly conforms to this and is an extremely cheesy, episodic and more than a little predictable film, but an undeniably enjoyable one that will leave you in a better mood and singing all the way home. In fact, plot-wise there is very little except slightly predictable plot developments that pave their way for the next conveniently titled song. Despite all these flaws, there is no denying that Sunshine on Leith is tremendous fun throughout and an incredibly enjoyable experience. Thankfully the 100 minute running time makes sure that the cheese does not go mouldy and the novelty does not wear off.
The cast are all on top form, with McKay and Guthrie giving energetic performances and providing very likeable protagonists. Peter Mullan acts against type to play a soft character and provides genuine heart, while this is the kind of role Jane Horrocks thrives on. Fletcher’s best mate Jason Flemyng is naturally in there (albeit a minor role) and is obviously enjoying himself; when he gets his one moment to sing and dance, he certainly goes for it and does not disappoint.
One of the main reasons Sunshine on Leith works for me is that it feels genuinely cinematic and utilising the Edinburgh setting. Dexter Fletcher was never the greatest actor ever, but behind the camera seems to certainly be a considerable talent. His debut Wild Bill was a genuinely well made and solid drama, and Sunshine on Leith is just as well made. Admittedly there are cheesy aerial shots of the Edinburgh skyline as often as can possibly be allowed, and so many scenes conveniently take place in Edinburgh tourist attractions but there is no denying it is all very well made making Sunshine on Leith a seamless transition from stage to screen. Despite the natural feel good charm of the narrative, Fletcher is not afraid to show the darker sides of being at war when required; such as Davy and Ally’s paraplegic fellow ex-soldier Ronnie (Paul Barrigan), who only gets a few scenes, but they pack an emotional punch.
There is a genuine feeling of energy or emotion when the song demands it helping to slightly smooth over the unavoidable clunky nature of the narrative, and when the inevitable songs are sung it does make you genuinely want to get up and sing along. Like (I expect) most people, I am only familiar with the obvious Proclaimers songs, but their back catalogue portrayed here in slightly rearranged fashion shows some genuinely anthemic and undeniably catchy songs.
Sunshine on Leith has all the characteristics and flaws of the usual film musical, but with Fletcher at the helm is both a well made an undeniably enjoyable feel good romp. It will have you singing to songs that you may have never heard before, but yet feel instantly familiar.