out of Five
Running time: 99
Infectiously joyous feel-good musical that will leave you grinning from ear-to-ear, thanks to some terrific songs, an exuberant cast and note-perfect, crowd-pleasing direction from Dexter Fletcher.
What's it all about?
Directed by Dexter Fletcher and adapted from screenwriter Stephen Greenhorn's 2007 stage musical, Sunshine On Leith is a musical built around songs by The Proclaimers, just as Mama Mia! Made use of Abba songs. George McKay and Kevin Guthrie star as Davy and Ally, soldiers and best friends, who return from active duty in Afghanistan and attempt to find love in their home town of Edinburgh.
Ally is, in fact, already in a relationship with Davy's sister Liz (Freya Mavor), who, in turn, sets Davy up with English nurse Yvonne (Antonia Thomas), but the path of true love doesn't run smooth for either of them, particularly when Liz announces her intention to take a job abroad and Yvonne suspects Davy would never leave his beloved home town for her. Meanwhile, Davy's happily married parents (Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks as Rab and Jean) have their own problems to deal with when Rab discovers he has a twenty-something daughter from a previous relationship.
As he proved with his wonderful debut feature Wild Bill, Dexter Fletcher has a genuine gift for crowd-pleasing fare and he gets the tone exactly right here, infusing every scene with joyous energy that is extremely infectious. It's no mean feat to pull off characters bursting into song mid-scene and making it seem natural (Mama Mia! didn't manage it, for example), but Fletcher practically has you singing along with the characters, such is their enthusiasm.
The cast are terrific too (in another time, posters for this film would have borne the legend “Peter Mullan Sings!”), particularly McKay and Thomas, who have genuine chemistry together – moreover, all the cast have excellent singing voices, so there are no “Pierce Brosnan moments”, as it were. Mullan is excellent as Rab and his singing scene is truly something to behold, while Mavor and Guthrie are both likely to go on to bigger things as a result of their performances here.
The songs work surprisingly well with the story, so much so that if you didn't know better, you'd assume they were written for the movie. The film is also an unabashed love letter to Edinburgh, heightened by George Richmond's crisp cinematography that makes superb use of a laundry list of tourist-friendly locations - Arthur's Seat, the National Gallery of Scotland and the Royal Mile are all present and correct.
Sunshine on Leith is a hugely enjoyable, genuinely uplifting musical that will have you seriously considering buying a Proclaimers CD as you bounce out of the cinema. Highly recommended.