Sunshine on Leith is a Mamma-Mia style musical set in modern-day Edinburgh, featuring 11 classic songs from The Proclaimers.
The film starts briefly in Afghanistan, where two friends, Davy and Ally, are on patrol with the British Army. A roadside bomb explodes and the two merrily return to Leith to work in a call centre. The tragedy of the bomb is hinted at as we briefly meet their mate whose legs were blown off in the incident and Davy spends half a scene feeling guilty and being consoled by his dad. The tragedy of the incident is however never further developed upon and it feels like a clumsy plot device so that the two can be established as likeable, working-class lads.
Instead of lingering on tragedy, the film quickly on to romance as Ally is reunited with Davy’s sister Liz and Davy charms Liz’s friend Yvonne. The film’s third couple is Davy and Liz’s parents, at whose 25th anniversary celebration all three couples fall out (some for more convincing reasons than others) and spend the rest of the film singing their way back together.
Of the six main actors, the older two are undoubtedly the best, particularly Peter Mullan who plays the dad and brings a heavyweight emotional punch and poignancy to every scene he’s in. The other leads are adequate and likeable but when they’re on screen it becomes obvious that the plot was contorted to fit the Proclaimers’ lyrics. Therefore, when their romances suffer, it’s hard to care and easy to switch off.
However, the music is what the film’s about and what makes it work fantastically. The Proclaimers’ songs are catchy and their lyrics are bawdy, funny, down-to-earth and heart-warming. The stand-out song is the second of the film, where a pub full of tequila-drinking young Scots sing stories of their past bad experiences – “this is a story of my first teacher/ the Shetlands made her jumpers and the devil made her features” – and remind themselves in the chorus that “they’re over and done with”. Another highlight is when Ally is preparing to propose to Liz and receives unsolicited advice from a dancing barman and a group of Hibernian fans singing the classic Let’s Get Married.
Although there’s plenty for a cynic to sneer at, if you want a film for all the family that will make you smile and cheer up a rainy Sunday then there’s nothing better than this. I came out singing, skipping down the high street and planning a trip up to Leith to join in the fun.