Directed by Dexter Fletcher, written by Stephen Greenhorn, starring George MacKay, Jason Flemyng, Peter Mullan and Jane Horricks
There’s a certain inevitability about a lot of Sunshine on Leith. A musical set to the songs of two-piece Scottish emotion baskets The Proclaimers is gloriously limited. The film’s plot points aren’t predictable per say, but anyone with an inkling of the band’s back catalogue knows that we’re bound to see one character propose to another, whilst another moves to America (And vows to send correspondence home) and one is called Jean. In fact, the only way you can tell the film is beginning to wind towards a close is by the fact that suddenly all the characters are finding themselves in situations that require them to walk an awfully long way.
It’s be easy to criticise the film’s plotting or writing (The screenplay, interestingly, is by former Doctor Who writer Stephen Greenhorn). However, that’d also be very cold and very heartless. It’s a film that leaves a grin unequivocally carved into the face. The bombastic finale seems to be a celebration of the human ability to bear teeth. The choreographed dance routine is one thing, but the casts’ rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles), the Edinburgh duo’s biggest hit, is populated by passers-by just joining in. Keep an eye out for a pair of jiving old ladies, a bloke in an orange cardigan who’s really going for it, a couple just looking at each other and laughing, embarrassed, a handful of kids losing it and a man in a cagoule who appears to be having a fit. It’s up there with Frances Ha’s Greta Gerwig running through the streets of New York and James Franco showing us his shit in Spring Breakers as my favourite cinematic moments of the year.
The cast all get the job done, and a number of them showcase excellent Edinburgh accents (There’s a thankfully low number of Chris Hemsworth-esque ‘Vaguely Scottish’ on display). Despite the films’ requirement to take us from misery to happiness today (Uhuh ahoh uhuh), the range required isn’t that great. Dexter Fletcher knows when to press their buttons, following up last years’ impressive directorial debut feature Wild Bill with aplomb. Most of them make a pretty decent fist of the singing, always allowing the accent to pour through, a la Craig and Charlie themselves. The casting of musical theatre specialist jane Horricks is a terrific coup, as she puts in an excellent performance and does some of the more heartfelt songs on the soundtrack justice.
On the music, Hillary Brooks has worked magic with the new arrangements, while Greenhorn’s actually done a pretty good job squeezing them into the plot (There’s a handful of ‘Well played’ moments when you don’t see the first line of a song coming). The new version of 500 Miles is even more upbeat than ever and Brooks’ take on Over And Done With is outstanding, a jivey, clap-along rendition that really spurses up a fairly middling Proclaimers track. Personally, I was a tad disappointed there’s not King of the Road, but it’s hard to fault what is generally a pretty good reflection of both character mood and the bands’ career.
There’s something excellently, bombastically Scottish about Sunshine on Leith, but the other, more upbeat, united Scotland front than that shown in the northern regions’ more iconic works, such as Trainspotting. It’s a side that, perhaps, those outside may not see all the time, and as such for an Englishman such as Fletcher to come in and capture the spirit of Scotland so proudly is an impressive achievement in itself. A thousand miles (Fittingly) from his gritty debut, it’sperhaps becoming an inevitability that his works’ll be a success. Far from predictable, he could easily propose anything or move to America, and while I wouldn’t put money on him changing his name to Jean, hopefully we won’t have to walk an awfully long way to see what he does next.
6 anti-Glasgow jokes out of 10