Sunshine on Leith (2013)
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: George MacKay (Defiance), Peter Mullan (Tyrannosaur)
Genre: Musical, Romance
Sunshine on Leith, a film about the homecoming of two young soldiers and their ensuing love lives, builds upon the success of Mamma Mia, creating a narrative around the back catalogue of a famous band. In Mamma Mia’s case, it was ABBA, in the case of Leith, it is The Proclaimers.
The film opens strongly, showing the two friends and fellow servicemen chanting in a tank emotively, before moving on to their homecoming, where they sing the first Proclaimers hit of the film; ‘I’m on my way, from misery to happiness today…’. If this sort of film is your cup of tea, then you too are on your way!
How do you know if the film is for you? Well, it’s quite simple. Unlike a lot of films, the trailer doesn’t lie. In fact, it’s basically a short version of the whole film. If you watch the trailer and it doesn’t make you want to vomit, chances are you’ll have a great time. The trailer promises lots of happiness, love and cheese, and it gives you just that. The problem may be that it gives you nothing more.
Well established and respected Scottish actor Peter Mullan is present playing a cheating father, bringing the necessary quota of emotional heft. Once again he gives a great performance, but this time, most impressively, in a genre practically alien to him.
The film is unabashedly based in Scotland. We’re not prancing along a beach in Greece, we’re in Edinburgh. It’s beautiful, yes, but it’s cold, full of drunks, and not full of Hollywood-beautiful people. The film isn’t ashamed of that. Not once does it pander to an English audience, never mine an American one and that is to be applauded. It is Scottish through and through, with kilts, Hibernian references and thick accents galore.
To return to the Mamma Mia comparison, it needs to be said that the film is disadvantaged from the outset with the material it harvests. While Mamma Mia had the glorious ABBA library to pick and choose from with hits galore, it’s fair to say The Proclaimers don’t boast such riches, and the film is poorer as a result. This isn’t a criticism of the film-making itself, however it is just worth noting that as a standalone musical, disregarding the source of the music, Mamma Mia would win hands-down on quality of the numbers.
Something it doesn’t lose out on is the charm. It is arguably less annoying than Mamma Mia, if not less cringe worthy. In fact, the first 20 minutes are something to be endured in that respect, with a lot of bum-clenching moments before you get used to the cheese. As soon as you do, however, you’re firmly in it for the long haul, with all the inconsistent voices that come with that.
The inconsistent quality of the singing isn’t a problem; you are too charmed to care, however there is potentially an issue with the technique used to sing. Those who saw the recent Les Miserables and marvelled at the live singing that that film has bravely and flawlessly pioneered may be disheartened in Leith that the same techniques aren’t used here. Pre-recorded backing tracks make a return and this may be annoying to some, like tasting the finest wine to then have to return to Sainsbury’s Basics. However, at the end of the day, this is a budgetary issue and not an artistic one, and furthermore shouldn’t matter much as soon as you are whipped up in the film’s infectious personality.
Summary: If you enjoyed Mamma Mia and liked Sunshine on Leith’s trailer, or just one of those two, go see this film as it will deliver all that you want and need – but beware, it will give you nothing more. For everyone else, avoid it like the plague – you miserable people.
Rating: 3 out of 5