Sunshine on Leith
Film Title: Sunshine on Leith
Director: Dexter Fletcher
Starring: Peter Mullan, Jane Horrocks, George MacKay, Kevin Guthrie
Running Time: 100 min
A movie based on a stage musical based on the songs of The Proclaimers? We know what you’re thinking: Letter to America, Sunshine on Leith, 500 Miles and, erm, what else?
You’re also probably wondering: what next? Stephen Greenhorn and the Dundee Rep Theatre Company’s Sunshine on Leith did tour to rave notices and did score awards when it premiered in 2007. That’s enough to distinguish the project from, say, Daddy Cool (based on the hits of Boney M) or the hundreds of other jukebox musicals that fail to emulate the success of Mamma Mia!.
But does it warrant a film?
The answer is a resounding, punch-the-air “Yes!”. This adorable, all-ages film follows the romantic adventures of David (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) as they return to Edinburgh following a tour of duty in Afghanistan.
David has a loving, close-knit family – especially dad Rab (a singing Peter Mullan) and mum Jean (Jane Horrocks, never better) – to fall back on. But Ally has no one except Davy’s devastatingly pretty sister, Liz (Freya Mavor). Can he talk Liz out of a nursing job in the US? And can Davy overcome PTSD issues to make things work with Liz’s English BF, Yvonne (Antonia Thomas)?
Director Dexter Fletcher cunningly plays out this goofy fairytale over a kitchen sink aesthetic. The background dancers seldom look like dancers: they seldom dance like dancers either. The Proclaimers’ harmonies and direct love songs easily translate into musical numbers, but the delivery varies between polished and somebody hollering in the shower. It works: Sunshine on Leith’s handmade qualities add to its overall appeal.
Under the tunes, grander themes of immigration, military life, the war in Afghanistan, familial discord and deftly juggled into the shape of a family attraction.
Like the anthems at the heart of the project, there’s something of a drunken bromance hug about the film: it’s unembellished, straight from the heart, something to grab onto and say “I love you, man” to before staggering home happy. We’d say it was a Celtic Umbrellas of Cherbourg. But they didn’t have headbutts or anything like as much fun in that film.