Joy. It’s an emotion most film makers would love to illicit from their audience but few truly manage. Of course some scenarios find it easier to provoke such a reaction than others. There’s the joy of seeing two soul mates finally get together, there’s the joy of a new born baby, there’s the simple joy of a child finally getting the acceptance of their peers. Of course such scenarios can quickly feel cheap unless we truly care about the characters involved and the joy is earned.
Joy is certainly the buzzword for this musical based on the songs of the Proclaimers, Sunshine on Leith. Like Queen and Abba, many of their songs are stirring anthems that become irresistible to drink-fuelled customers on karaoke nights in pubs up and down the land. Such a quality is unfortunate if, like me, you have ever lived above one such public house, and 500 Miles can’t help but bring shivers down my spine for that precise reason.
However, Sunshine on Leith, does seem to be aware of this quality, and it is to the film’s credit it brings you inside the pub as part of the fun, rather than in a flat two storeys above with a pillow over your ears.
The story is flimsy and not just secondary, but almost tertiary to proceedings. It consists of two best friends (Ally and Davy) coming back from war and the two relationships they are involved with. Alongside that Ally’s parents must cope with a revelation from the past that threatens to split them apart after 25 years of marriage.
Thankfully every other part of the film shines (ahem…). The Proclaimers music is very much rooted in place, emotions, and a deceptive simplicity, all of which are perfectly complimented by the film. In addition, the characters are all likeable, and their relationships believable. We laugh, cry and hum along with them.
There is nothing pretentious about Sunshine on Leith, it never strives to be more than it is. Like a night down the pub with your mates, you will spend much of it smiling, there’s the occasional tear, but mostly you’ll just remember its joy.