SUNSHINE ON LEITH
Returning to their lifelong residence of Leith, in Edinburgh, best friends Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) kindle romances old and new: Ally plans to propose to Davy's sister Liz (Freya Mavor), while Davy falls head-over-heels in love with Yvonne (Antonia Thomas). Meanwhile, Davy's parents Rab (Peter Mullan) and Jean (Jane Horrocks) are busy planning their 25th wedding anniversary. Everything's going swimmingly, until a revelation from Rab's past threatens to tear the family and all three couples apart.
Review by Louise Keller:
I feel a bit mean not to embrace Stephen Greenhorn's adaptation of his good hearted stage musical, but the film plods instead of soars, despite its genuine characters and heartfelt performances. Greenhorn's concept to use the songs of Scottish band The Proclaimers to enhance its fictional narrative might work on stage buoyed by its theatrical dynamic, but here, with lack-lustre direction by Dexter Fletcher, the pace is slow and mechanical. As a result, the connection with the characters is hap-hazard with the narrative nothing but a sequence of fragmented scenes stitched together.
Like Mama Mia (2008) that was also adapted from a stage show and used the toe-tapping songs of ABBA to play out its narrative (with the help of Meryl Streep and Pierce Brosnan), Sunshine on Leith follows the same mould. But without meaning any disrespect to identical twins Charlie and Craig Reid who wrote the songs for the latter, the music does not have a similar zest, zing or instantly hummable quality. While it should not matter whether or not the audience is not familiar with the songs, their treatment is less than inspiring - especially disappointing is the rendition of the title song, Sunshine on Leith, which is overly earnest and bores rather than moves.
After a brief sequence in which best friends Davy (George Mackay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) are shown on active duty in Afghanistan, the story begins when they return to their home town of Leith, north of Edinburgh. Through the songs we are there for life's highs and lows and that of their families. There is the promise of a new relationship, picking up the threads on an old romance, a 25th wedding anniversary celebration and the emergence of a dark secret from the past that threatens the harmony.
Forming the central pivot are Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks as Davy's parents who undergo their own emotional turmoil. It is a pity that Fletcher does not capture the dramatic tension required; we watch from afar. Also incidental is the relationship between Ally and Liz (Freya Mavor) which does not go according to plan, although we do identify with Liz's dilemma about her career and future. Davy's new relationship with Yvonne (Antonia Thomas, excellent) is the subplot and relationship that works best and there is a nice dynamic between the two.
Choices are made, dreams are pursued and the past re-evaluated - all the while George Richmond's beautiful cinematography captures the beauty and textures of the Scottish urban landscape. The film culminates with a crowd-pleasing, flash-mob inspired scene in which The Proclaimers' hit I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) that plays out in a city square. Fortunately, it is on this high note that the film ends, but it is not enough to save it, despite its good heart. I wish I had liked it more.
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SUNSHINE ON LEITH (M)
CAST: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, George MacKay, Jason Flemyng, Antonia Thomas, Freya Mavor, Kevin Guthrie, Paul Brannigan,
PRODUCER: Andrew Macdonald, Arabella Page Croft, Kieran Parker, Allon Reich
DIRECTOR: Dexter Fletcher
SCRIPT: Stephen Greenhorn
CINEMATOGRAPHER: George Richmond
EDITOR: Stuart Gazzard
MUSIC: The Proclaimers (Craig and Charlie Reid)
PRODUCTION DESIGN: Mike Gunn
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes
AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: Hopscotch
AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: May 22, 2014