On the face of it, Sunshine on Leith should be a very hard concept to sell. Take a stage show which is essentially a “jukebox musical” based on the songs of The Proclaimers, and transform it into a musical film about two soldiers who return to Leith (Edinburgh). Stephen Greenhorn’s stage play was a huge success, and it’s testament to the quality of his self-penned screenplay that as a film it works rather well.
After a tragedy in Afghanistan, Davey (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) return home to pick up where their lives left off. Ally to rekindle his relationship with Davey’s sister Liz (Freya Mavor) whilst Davey is searching for a place in the world. As he falls for Yvonne (Antonia Thomas), all seems to be going well, but as his parents (Mullan and Horrocks) approach their wedding anniversary, the past and present begins to catch up with them all.
I’ll be honest; the whole concept wasn’t one I found particularly appealing, but after a few minutes you find yourself just going with it. The young cast have been plucked from TV, but all carry off the acting and singing duties impressively. Dexter Fletcher is proving to be an astute director, and the inclusion of Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks is a wise choice: They add a certain gravitas and balance which keeps the film on-track. Seeing Peter Mullan serenade his wife to ‘Jean’ in the style of Tom Waits is pretty special.
Sunshine on Leith is also a love letter to Edinburgh, and where other films such as Trainspotting paint the darker side to the Capital, expect long lingering shots of the beautiful city (Andrew MacDonald produced both films and there’s a nice nod to the Irvine Welsh adaptation).
Sunshine on Leith is not a film that’s likely to carry off a haul of awards, but Dexter Fletcher has produced a thoroughly likeable film which will leave you smiling. And yes, the music is good.
Out now at the Showroom.