Re:View – ‘Sunshine On Leith’

The Arts

When the BAFTA website crashed last week, preventing bookings for the new season’s films, I knew I’d lost tickets to ‘Gravity’.

My partner tried other channels to get tickets. He called back; ‘I’ve got good news and bad news.’

‘What’s the bad news?’

‘You’re not coming.’

Great. So last night I sat in an almost empty cinema and watched ‘Sunshine On Leith’, a low budget Scottish tale of squaddies and their gey-rruls, directed by Dexter Fletcher, who was in ‘Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Barrels’. Having sat through several evenings of films featuring disenfranchised yoofs staring across fields drinking lager, the prospect was not enticing, but I’m a glutton for punishment.

Instead I saw an irrepressibly joyful movie about three couples and their romantic tangles, set to the music of The Proclaimers, a band virtually unknown in the rest of the world owing to their strong accents. What I didn’t realise was that the film is that rare beast, a musical that works, simply because the brief songs are a natural extension of the dialogue. As such, it sits somewhere between ‘Once’ and ‘Chansons D’Amour’.

Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullen are the parents whose kids face up to problems of employment and economic migration. Jason Flemyng puts in a hilarious turn as a museum guard. The boys turn in heartfelt performances and are matched by the fully rounded-out characters of their girls. The songs fit naturally with the Celtic desire to tell stories and sing in pubs. And the whole thing ends (as it could only do) with a flash-mob production of ‘(I Would Walk) 500 Miles’, a song with such a killer hook that you won’t be able to get it out of your head for days.

Like ‘Trainspotting’, ‘Shallow Grave’ and ‘The Illusionist’, the film is a love letter to Edinburgh, filmed in low winter sunlight, snow and dusk. I’ve always preferred the edginess of Glasgow – which the characters take pops at along with the idea of moving to England – but it certainly makes the city shine. As I left the cinema, someone said ‘Isn’t it a change to see a good film that’s not set in Hollywood?’

BTW, The Times online film coverage gets steadily worse, as its two female ‘journalists’ usually discuss the week’s releases by choosing colours and men they like. This time one sums up the above film by saying ‘I’d rather chainsaw my ears off’. So much for in-depth intelligent criticism. She should see it and if she doesn’t like it I’ll chainsaw her ears off. Happily.

7 comments on “Re:View – ‘Sunshine On Leith’”

  1. Janet Wilson says:

    Craig & Charlie unknown?? I don’t think so!! Much loved in Bristol, at any rate, tho we have a fair size Celtic population. Will try to see ‘Sunshine On Leith’, as light relief from aforementioned ’12 Years A Slave’. By the way, go easy with that chainsaw- you need a licence!

  2. Anchovee says:

    The majority of Trainspotting was in fact filmed in Glasgow (apart from the chase scene at the start). I assume the powers that be in Edinburgh were disinclined to allow filming due to the subject matter.

    Most reviews I’ve read/heard have been from people ‘pleasantly surprised’ – Mark Lawson (R4 Front Row) actually shed a tear.

  3. Cathy Adamson says:

    ‘500 Miles ‘ is now a staple at the end of Scottish weddings (the communal singing usually takes place before Auld Lang Syne) and it always sounds good! Love it that you liked the film.

  4. Helen Martin says:

    Just thinking about 500 Miles has it lodged in my brain. What an ending for a wedding!

  5. Dan Terrell says:

    The film sounds great: an ‘irrepressibly joyful film’, yes!
    And, of course, I forgot curiosity can kill the cat and so I Goggled the video of …500 Miles. That driving repetitive beat, those hooks, and in a little over three minutes I’m brain is possessed. If a zombie ate my brains now, it would undoubtedly start bopping.
    Can’t say you didn’t warn me. Beware fellow readers.
    From all I’ve read and heard about Gravity, although some of the science is off, it is a great film. Best use of 3D in ages! And on Imax, it’s out of this…

  6. Dan Terrell says:

    Yes, proof, I’m possessed “I’m brain” for “my brain”. Ah, the pitfalls of speed editing.

  7. I loved it. We came out and both agreed it could have been half an hour longer. How often do you feel that these days. It’s over and done with…

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