Adapted from the successful stage musical of the same name, Sunshine on Leith centres on best pals Davy and Ally, who return from a confronting tour of Afghanistan to their hometown of Leith in Scotland.
As they reacquaint themselves with home and family life, with romances both improving and complicating things, their experiences are played out “jukebox musical style”. The songs are all from the successful pop/folk band the Proclaimers’ distinctive and suburban-tale-laden catalogue, and it’s near-impossible not to be foot-tapping and inwardly cheering as the film reaches its conclusion.
It would be a very stony heart not to succumb to this vibrant, upbeat musical. Perhaps this is in part because it is set just outside Edinburgh and the backdrop, the culture and the accents are so very… Scottish. And we musical lovers do love a foreign, distinctive kind of setting for an uplifting and memorable musical experience (think Mama Mia!’s über wattage of Grecian sunshine, turquoise water and abundance of tans).
Sunshine on Leith has a freshness and integrity that is rewarding for the viewer. Cast members, including George MacKay as Davy and Kevin Guthrie as Ally, are mostly young and unknown, yet are all right on the mark in both the musical numbers and the heavier scenes. Veteran Scottish actor Peter Mullan as Rab, Davy’s father, and Jane Horrocks (Little Voice) as Davy’s mother, add a wonderful dimension to the film, with their 25-year strong relationship being severely tested.
In terms of storyline, there’s nothing much we haven’t seen before: a secret threatening to break apart a family, and a young girl wanting to spread her wings while trying not to break her love-struck boyfriend’s heart. And, of course, two people from seemingly different worlds brought together by attraction, but with an unfocused and undefined future making things rocky.
The simple-as plot and motifs are forgivable, however, because you just want to see these characters heal and reunite. And gosh, don’t you know it, music does have a kind of healing power. The film features 13 songs by the, including the duo’s most successful and well-known hit, and they fit like a glove with the world of the story. Hats off to director Dexter Fletcher for the pacing and solid transition to screen.
Highlights, for me, were Jane Horrocks’ sombre rendition of a verse from “Hate My Love” and the very energised rendition of “Then I Met You” by the characters Davy and Yvonne (Antonia Thomas). Those who love a big ending and a flash mob are in for a treat, too.
Perfectly cast, with a solid-gold heart, Sunshine on Leith may have Edinburgh expats living in Australia feeling more than a little homesick. It should also have musical lovers adding a new soundtrack to their Spotify playlists. I have been cranking the Proclaimers more than my neighbours may have appreciated this past weekend.
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