Title: Sunshine On Leith
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Major Players: Jane Horrocks, Peter Mullan, George Mackay
Out of five? 3.5
Basing a musical on the songs of one particular group means it’s inevitably going to be contrived somehow. It’s part of the deal. Mamma Mia? We Will Rock You? Yes to both, and it’s the same with Sunshine On Leith.
This unashamedly feel-good hour and a half is based on the songs of The Proclaimers, the deeply Scottish duo made up of identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid. It’s the story of two army mates, Davy and Ally, who return from Afghanistan to their home of Leith to re-kindle old relationships and start new ones. At the same time, Davy’s parents are planning to celebrate their silver wedding anniversary. Everything looks rosy, but on the night of the party everybody’s dreams start to crumble.
Oh, to have been a fly on the wall when the director was pitching for funds! “I’m making a film about two Scottish soldiers coming home to Edinburgh and it’s all filmed in the city. It’s about as Scottish as it gets. And I’m directing it – me, Dexter Fletcher, norf London geezer.” Hats off to Fletcher the salesman, as he got the dosh and you’d never know there wasn’t a Scotsman in the director’s chair.
What he’s produced is a piece of wholesome family fodder. You could take your gran along and she’d love it. There’s even fleeting cameos from The Proclaimers themselves (which I spotted) and Dexter Fletcher (which I didn’t). The big scale musical numbers are full of energy and Fletcher orchestrates them well, even if the final one smacks of coming straight off the set of Glee. The trouble is, in between those big numbers, the film falls a wee bit flat – almost like a soggy-bottomed-something from the Great British Bake Off. And that includes some of the lesser musical numbers.
The contrived plot is taken as read, but it gets overstretched at times. One character takes a job in Florida, simply so that Letter From America can have an airing. Predictable goes hand-in-hand with contrived, after all.
Fletcher clearly has a knack of getting the best from his younger cast members, from Ally’s wonderfully knowing and cute little nephew to the two young soldiers and their girlfriends. He’s not quite so successful with the older ones. Peter Mullan is cast against type as the father – a million miles away from his usual hard man role – but it’s not much of a challenge for him. Jane Horrocks is in the same boat and also has a slightly variable Scottish accent. You have to feel sorry for Jason Flemyng, who’s saddled with a complete non-role that’s created purely for one song and dance number. And, bless him, he’s not a great dancer.
Despite its predictability and contrivances, it’s hard not to have fun watching Sunshine On Leith. You may need a tissue or two – even Radio Four’s Mark Lawson admitted to having a snuffle at the screening I attended – and you will come out singing the songs from the film. Why? Because you already know them …….
Sunshine On Leith opens around the UK on Friday, 4 October.