Sunshine On Leith

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Director: Dexter Fletcher.
Screenplay: Stephen Greenhorn.
Starring: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, George MacKay, Kevin Guthrie, Antonia Thomas, Freya Mavor, Jason Flemyng, Paul Brannigan, Emma Hartley-Miller, Daniela Nardini.

After recently enjoying the debauched underbelly of Edinburgh in Irvine Welsh’s “Filth“, I was curious to see Scotland’s capital feature again in a more lighthearted film. As a general rule, I avoid musicals at all costs as I’m just not that keen on people bursting into song every few minutes. However, I was impressed by actor Dexter Fletcher’s impressive directorial debut “Wild Bill” in 2011 and couldn’t resist the urge to see a musical featuring the fantastic songs of The Proclaimers.

After a tour of Afghanistan, two young recruits, Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) return home to Leith, Edinburgh to adapt to civilian life. They both find love in their lives but realise that relationships are never easy, regardless of age. Davy hooks up with nurse Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) while Ally plans to marry Davy’s sister, Liz (Freya Mavor) who wants to move to America. Meanwhile Davy’s mum and dad, Rab (Peter Mullan) Jean (Jane Horrocks), have problems of their own.

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There will more than likely be a few readers who are unfamiliar with the music of Scottish double-act, The Proclaimers but don’t let that deter you from this film. The songs of Charlie and Craig Reid are perfectly fitting to this working class drama and Fletcher does a fantastic job of intertwining the struggles of his characters with the band’s clever and poetic lyrics. As expected, people do burst into song every now and again but the delivery is so charming and delightful that it’s very difficult not to get swept up in the enthusiasm of everyone involved. Such classics like “I’m on my way“, “Letter from America” “I’m gonna be (500 miles)“, “Should have been loved” and, of course, the beautiful “Sunshine on Leith” are pitched perfectly for individual scenes either with the requisite verve or pathos that’s demanded. Quite simply, the film is an absolute joy and credit has to go to Fletcher for another interesting and accomplished directorial outing. Admittedly, the film has it’s moments of over sentimentality but the performances are committed enough to make it work overall; Peter Mullan’s gravelly tones may not be to everyone’s satisfaction but otherwise he’s reliably solid while the likes of Jason Flemyng and youngsters George MacKay, Kevin Guthrie, Freya Mavor and Antonia Thomas all equip themselves well. For those that have seen “Little Voice“, however, will not be surprised to hear that it’s Jane Horrocks who’s most comfortable with her numbers. Not only is she a highly underrated actress but also one with wonderful vocal talents.

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What with the likes of Danny Boyle’s “Trainspotting” and “Shallow Grave“, Ken Loach’s “My Name Is Joe” or even the aforementioned “Filth“, it’s refreshing to see a film set in Scotland that steps away from the grim social realism and paint the city inhabitants in a playful and joyful manner.

Cheerful, easy-going and so warm that only the hardest and coldest of hearts will be able to resist it’s charm. What “Mamma Mia” did for fans of Swedish band Abba, this little gem will do for those that enjoy The Proclaimers.

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Mark Walker

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33 Responses to “Sunshine On Leith”

  1. Inner city Scottish films have such a strong association with gritty bleakness that I am struggling to imagine a feel-good movie set there! it’s my wedding anniversary, so this might be a better option than FLITH. I’ve never really given The Proclaimers much attention. If this film has done nothing else, it has made me go back and listen to them. I didn’t realise that songs like LETTER FROM AMERICA were protest songs.

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    • Feel good Scottish films do exist but they are a rarity. This is definitely one if them though. Happy anniversary, man. Take the missus to this and I’m sure she’ll thank you for it.

      As for The Proclaimers, they can be very political at times. They’ve done some fantastic stuff. This focuses more on their older numbers but every song is placed very well within the film.

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  2. Hahaha that last picture cracked me up!

    This looks promising, I should check it out :)

    Awesome review!

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  3. I have to admit that when I saw the trailer for this I thought, “I’d rather jam a fork into my eye”. I’m not sure my opinion has changed… but I did quite like Wild Bill…

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  4. Me and musicals don’t really get along – unless it’s Monty Python.

    Boat Drinks!

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  5. Awesome review! Haven’t even heard of this but you’ve sold me Mark! I like Peter Mullan, who’s also in How I Live Now. The Scotland scenery is definitely icing on the cake! :D

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  6. Very nice Mark. I found it amusing this was released in the same week as Filth, possibly the polar opposite of this film!

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  7. I know for a fact this isn’t my kind of film, but I’m glad you enjoyed it buddy. Bit like me making you watch one of my extreme horror movies :)

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  8. I hadn’t planned on seeing this as I’m not really a fan of The Proclaimers to be honest, but I might give it a rental as I am partial to the occasional musical and I’ll watch anything with Peter Mullen in. Great review mate.

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  9. Mark, Have not seen this yet but sounds like something I need to check out ASAP.

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  10. chris2508 Says:

    Like yourself musicals are not normally my cup of tea. However I did enjoy Tim Burton’s Sweeney Todd. What was your opinion on it?

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  11. Nice review. I think Scotland is lovely (from the couple of times I’ve been there) but can’t say I know any Proclaimers songs (other than, you know, that annoying 500 Miles song). ;-) Sounds like an interesting film, though.

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    • Yeah, 500 miles is a bit pest of a song. Not their best moment, that’s for sure. However, a lot of their songs are actually really well written. They’re also surprisingly very political with their music but it doesn’t normally strike you that way until you delve a little deeper.

      Hope you give the film a chance, it really is rather good. Thanks! :-)

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  12. Greetings from NYC, Mark! Thanks for the youtube link, I finally got a chance to take a listen. LOVE it! I think I’ll really enjoy their songs and this movie, too :D

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    • New York? Nice one, Ruth. Hope you’re enjoying yourself. Glad to hear you liked the song. The Proclaimers have done some great stuff. There’s some cheesy stuff as well but for the most part, they’re great. Hope you get a chance to see the film soon.

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  13. Not gotten around to seeing this yet, but want to find the time. Have even been giving The Proclaimers a go on Spotify just to ensure I’m au fait with the music. Vague memories of Letter To America on an early Now That’s What I Call Music compilation plus a few other songs. Many are new to me, though, which is good.

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    • Letter to America is probably my least favourite song of theirs even though it’s probably the most well known. They’ve done some great stuff. The title song Sunshine on leith is an absolute beauty. Check that out. In fact, I left a you tube link in the above comments. Give it a listen.

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