Re:View – ‘Sunshine On Leith’
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.