Some films are impossible to not smile at. Even if you hate musicals, happy endings, romantic comedy or kitchen sink drama, Sunshine on Leith is destined to thaw the coldest of hearts. Even if you hate The Proclaimers who provide the songs stuffed into this Scottish musical of romance and heart break.
If you would walk 500 miles just to avoid this kind of saccharine stuff, just pause for a moment and read on. Sunshine on Leith has two returning soldiers Ally (Kevin Guthrie) and Davy (George MacKay) arrive back in impossibly sunny Edinburgh and attempt to get their lives back on track after tours in Afghanistan. Ally loves Davy's sister Liz (Freya Mavor) and wants to propose while Davy is set up with Liz's mate Yvonne (Antonia Thomas) and the pair quickly fall in love. Added to the story of these young lovers is Davy's parents Rab and Jean who are also finding love comes with its ups and downs.
It all starts off so happy, sunny and cheery that you may find yourself wondering where the conflict is going to come from. Everyone seems happy and songs are sung with all the gusto of people living in blissful denial of the troubles that surround them. Unemployment and PTSD may be hinted at (very mildly) but mostly the ex-soldiers skip along the pavements to Proclaimers songs before winning hearts and all seems settled and stress free.
Soon however the inevitable cracks emerge. Liz wants to see the world, Yvonne wants to see her family back in England and a secret from the past threatens to tear apart Rab and Jean after 25 years of marriage. Though the young stars might fill much of the running time, it is the pairing of Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks as the mature couple and the very difficult situation that they are forced to confront that gives Sunshine on Leith its real dramatic intensity.
However Sunshine on Leith is not a depressing affair. It is sweet and sincere and the cast give it their all in singing, dancing and emoting. Dexter Fletcher follows his directorial debut Wild Bill with a very different film though still finds time to squeeze old pal Jason Flemyng in for a stand out scene and elicits great performances from all of his cast. The photography is also frequently stunning with Fletcher including aerial shots and gorgeous sunsets that will keep the Scottish Tourist Board happy.
Like a sugary drink, Sunshine on Leith is impossible to dislike but might leave cynics with a feeling of slight sickness. In terms of musicals it is far superior to Mamma Mia and therefore deserves to find as big an audience. It would make a great pick me up after the rather more grueling and distinctly less sunny view of Scotland presented in Filth, also out on October 4th. Consider them a yin yang double bill.
If nothing else Sunshine on Leith should have you singing along to many of the tunes and confirms Dexter Fletcher as a diverse director to watch. It is a sunny delight!
Watch the trailer:
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