Proclaimer mia! – Sunshine on Leith review

Sunshine on Leith

By Simon Miraudo
May 19, 2014

There is nothing quite as alarming as sitting down to a film and only then discovering it’s a musical, to say nothing of the confusion that comes with the realisation it’s comprised entirely of Proclaimers songs. And yet, that is precisely the experience Sunshine on Leith delivered. (In fairness, viewers slightly more perceptive than this oblivious critic will go in knowing it takes its title from one of the Scottish twins’ most popular ditties). The easy joke is to ask how an entire musical could be built around ‘500 Miles’ and ‘I’m On My Way’, but director Dexter Fletcher and writer Stephen Greenhorn – adapting his own stage production of the same name – organically work the rest of Charlie and Craig Reid’s back-catalogue into a sweet, low-stakes plot, winking at the audience whenever their ‘wedging’ gets a little too cute.

That plot – not entirely worth getting into – involves returning soldiers Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie), and their attempts to carry on their small-town lives in Edinburgh. On the romantic front, Ally is eager to settle down with Davy’s sister Liz (Freya Mavor), who now has her own ideas for the future, while Davy finds himself unexpectedly involved with Liz’s spunky friend Yvonne (Antonia Thomas). As the twentysomethings attempt to untangle themselves from their personal predicaments, Davy’s parents (Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks) find their 25th wedding anniversary celebrations disturbed by a revelation from the past. The plot machinations and character obstacles aren’t wildly involving; they’re conduits for convenient singing opportunities. Sunshine on Leith is as nonchalantly plotted as The Fonz coolly pounding his fist against a jukebox, except now when he does it, only songs by The Proclaimers emerge.

Sunshine on Leith

Sunshine on Leith falls squarely into “mum’s movie” territory with plenty of public declarations of love, a few tear-jerking moments, and lots of silly dancing (especially from a game Jason Flemyng). Fletcher – better known for acting in Hotel Babylon, Lock Stock, and Press Gang – shoots his second feature with sprightly energy and a luminous sheen. Though he’s not got a particularly rich script to play with, Fletcher is armed with an able and willing cast, and, amazingly, a slew of fine songs for them to sing. And that’s perhaps why Sunshine on Leith strikes any chord at all; unlike, say, Mamma Mia and We Will Rock You (mercifully not yet burdened on filmgoers), many of the soundtrack selections here will be welcome surprises, at least for those as oblivious to The Proclaimers’ storied career as myself.


Check out Simon Miraudo’s archive of reviews.

Sunshine on Leith arrives in Australian cinemas May 22, 2014.

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