Film Review: Sunshine On Leith

It’s been a while since I last spent a boring evening at home simply sat in front of the TV watching a film and so, the pile of films “to watch” has been growing steadily. Last night, however, I had no plans and with an early start the next morning decided that it was the perfect opportunity to grab a film and relax happily before getting an early night.

With the impending Scottish vote on independence and the start of the Commonwealth games in Glasgow a trip north of the border seemed to make sense, especially as I had Sunshine On Leith, a film I originally saw during its cinema release last year sitting in the pile of Blu Rays.

Obviously based upon the hits of The Proclaimers, a band which to many are sadly “one hit wonders” and yet actually, have a wide and varied back catalogue. And it’s this catalogue of songs that the film relies upon for its story, plot and narrative. When I saw the film during it’s big screen run I was ashamedly one of the one hit brigade and so the story and songs was essentially all fresh, but I did find myself, knowing, waiting for the most obvious song to some along which spoilt it slightly. I had also heard rumours, and watching it a second time can see why, that if you know a few more songs the plot is actually very predictable as it’s that reliant on the lyrics for its source material.

Don’t let that put you off though, because the one thing this film does brilliant is bring those lyrics, that music, to life. Honestly, after I saw the film, I downloaded a few of The Proclaimers original versions, and they’re not the same, something is missing. The film gives them a richness and a personality that just lacks when they are not being sung drunkenly on a table, in a bar. And the music joy provided by the film doesn’t stop there, because when you take away The Proclaimers’ works and introduce the instrumental original scores they pack such a punch emotionally and have a clarity and precision to them that they compliment the scenes and tone they are used in, in a way that reinforces the underlying messages and feelings lifting the film to another level.

Even the cast sits just right throughout the film. Obviously Jane Horrocks and Peter Mullan lend some clout to the cast, and yes, they aren’t world class vocally, but there styles, their abilities just seem to fit with the personality of the characters and make them all the more believable and then the younger cast, who most of which were making the leap from the small screen steal the show and draw you in. I’d happily spend any evening with any of them!

Cinematically, the film on occasions feel like you’re being treated to a tourist information short showing off the sights of Edinburgh, but that isn’t a bad thing. Edinburgh is a beautiful city and the shots used are stunning and just as per the original scored music, enhance the little details of the film that mean, whether you go into this film a fan of The Proclaimers or not, you can’t help but fall in love with it and come out the other side tapping your feet and amazingly enough, singing songs not about walking 500 miles.

There is a huge amount to like throughout this film, but for me at least, there are a couple of problems with it as well. Firstly, because it’s so reliant on the lyrics and joining together of the stories they tell that how it gets from one song to the next means there isn’t really any time or way to expand out the characters, to give you any real detail into their lives or personalities. You get a bit, and who they are does come through, but it leaves some of the smaller minor roles feeling like they only exist because they are needed to sing a particular song rather than adding anything directly to the story.

My other, and biggest issue with it is that, just as you can argue with Begin Again, because it’s not sung “live” but rather dubbed over the top, it’s meant that there are large portions of the film where the songs feel over produced and disconnected. They don’t feel like a musical conversation but rather a number that is being performed. And it’s the strength of disconnection between the sound and the image that from time to time overwhelms the building emotion and tension that is created.

Honestly though, don’t let my issues put you off it, even if you aren’t a Proclaimers fan, watch it if you can. I really like the film even though it’s not ground breaking, or something you’ll return to regularly, in fact I’d say it’s a “once every couple of years” film, but there is just something about it that will make you fall in love with it. It truly is a movie to throw away an evening to, safe in the knowledge that it’ll leave you feeling happy, overcome with a complete sense of fun, and unexpectedly catchy lyrics stuck in your head.

7 out of 10 stars (7 / 10)

Posted on by 5WC in Film First Edition

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