As most movies are now saturated with mood-prompting songs – they can often seem like little more than soundtracks with accompanying visuals – the fully blown musical runs the risk of being uncomfortably twee, if not entirely implausible.
But Across The Universe (2007), based on the Beatles’ catalogue, proved that it can still be a viable genre and Sunshine On Leith, inspired by the Proclaimers’ 1988 album of the same name, furthers the cause with ebullient big-heartedness. Not that Craig and Charlie Reid are in the same league as Lennon/McCartney, but their tunes and lyrics are straightforward, feature a strong narrative component and, most significantly, are understanding of the people and place that give them such life.
The story deals with everyday but complex personal relationships (what relationships are not?) and it is told in a simple, direct manner.
Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) return home to Edinburgh after a tour of duty in Afghanistan (the Reids can be spotted emerging from a pub as the boys dance down the street).
De-mobbed, Ally wants to settle down with Davy’s beautiful freckled sister, Liz (Freya Mavor), while Davy falls for an English nurse, Yvonne (Antonia Thomas).
On the night that Davy and Liz’s parents, Rab and Jean (Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks), are celebrating their twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, an ancient infidelity comes to light and ultimately all three couples find themselves confronted by the prospect of losing the love they so cherish.
It is as cheesy as it gets, but not for one minute did I not care about what the end result might be for the characters.
The songs are mostly ‘unplugged’, with the vocals given every opportunity to eke out the words’ emotional nuances and, without exception, each of the players sells the conceit (Mavor is especially winning).
Edinburgh never looked so good and the closing, Bollywoodesque rendition of 500 Miles, including mass choreography outside the city’s National Gallery, will lift the spirits of anybody concerned by the dousing of the sunshine that once shone on our country.
~ John Campbell