Wednesday, 27 August 2014

Sunshine (and Sing-a-Longs) on Leith

Sunshine on leith 2013 film poster

Everyone likes a feel-good movie on occasion. Don't lie, you bitter old hag lying in a dusty bedroom, hiding under filthy sheets stained beige by countless nights of drowning your crippling sadness with the sweet, sweet release of various fried goods dipped in barbecue sauce. Mmmm... But yes, sometimes all you need to perk yourself up is a bit of an emotional cleanse in the form of a loud, cheesy and utterly stupid pile of eye-noise. Guess what I watched yesterday?

Sunshine on leith 2013 film title screenshot
The squiggly writing means happy.
For those of you not living in Scotland, there are two things we Scots all enjoy regardless of class or creed: blaming the English for everything bad that ever happens and listening to our rat-faced national treasures, The Proclaimers. Now the upcoming independence referendum is kindly dealing with the former, so to get your fix of peppy tunes sung in thick Scottish accents you need look no further than Sunshine on Leith, the Mamma Mia! of alcoholism and poverty. It came out at the same time as the gloriously disturbing Filth, but I would probably recommend you try not to confuse the two if you at all can; your gran might be less entertained by hallucinations and heavy drug use than she would people singing about marriage in a pub. Unless she's the coolest gran ever.

The story here is...shall we say...simple? Two best friends, Ally and Davy, have arrived back in their home town of Leith, Edinburgh, from a recent tour (not the fun kind) of Afghanistan; the film follows the pair (and Davy's father, Rab, in a separate sub-plot) as they try to settle back into civilian life and get it awn with their respective lady-friends. There's betrayal, illegitimate children, proposals, mind-numbingly awful miscommunication, arguments, fights...think of any episode of Eastenders and you've got a basic synopsis for this movie. So really, they've got life in Leith spot on.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film japanese tourists screenshot
Even the extras are authentic.
A crueller, more cynical man than I might purport that the plot feels like it was shoehorned in around a list of the most popular songs in The Proclaimers' back catalogue, but really it's just been pulled straight out and replaced with a greatest hits CD. There's a new song every two minutes, be that as a straight up sing-your-feelings-away number or just as background music, so it'll be an immediate hit to any Proclaimers fans who've been waiting for a 90 minute long compilation music video. I would say that, for those of us looking for more, the film doesn't carry enough weight for it to stay engaging but then I'd be lying; and if there's one thing I'm not, it's a filthy, smelly, poo-faced liar hole. The songs and dances are fun, well choreographed, and varied and, despite some of them being a tad wooden with a little left to be desired, the characters are for the most part a good mix of adorable and sympathetic.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film little boy ears screenshot
Unbearably cute child? Check.
What I'm saying is it's chewing gum for the soul; pleasant but never designed to be a main course. Although I wouldn't be me if I didn't try to ruin it anyway, so here's a quick lowdown of all the niggling problems with this film:

1) The lighting basks everything in a dreary cloudy-day blue (so kudos on an accurate portrayal of Edinburgh weather) but always seems to come at everyone from the side at all times. If shit keeps on going like this, the entire population of the film will get skin cancer all down one half of their face.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film lighting comparison screenshot
Often the lighting straight up decides "Fuck it, I'll shine in the wrong direction."
2) The sound mixing has evidently been done by the same people who dub bad Japanese anime. Half of the time, words in songs done match up to the lip syncing. That's lazy post-production, that.

3) This is a rather rose-tinted view of Leith, down to the pub bathrooms being clean, no-one getting stabbed, and a couple having the money to hire a massive hall for their 25th wedding anniversary. It's not quite a documentary, shall we say?

4) The story, as already mentioned, is utterly contrived and revolves entirely around all the main characters being total fannies who can't communicate properly.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film yvonne frown screenshot
"Aflurgadurb! Fubbadurgadurr!"
5) The characters spend maybe a total of fifteen minutes actually in Leith; the rest of the time they're either in Edinburgh city centre or further north, far away from the eponymous subsection of the city. Furthermore, the city makes no geographical sense, places and people teleporting all over the shop. Sure, that happens in every movie what with using different locations for scenes, and I've only noticed because I'm from Edinburgh, but come on. They've thrown the castle in the background so many times and in such impossible positions that I'm starting to think this is actually a horror film about innocent people being stalked by a sentient teleporting perv-fortress.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film edinburgh castle screenshot bedroom
"Morning, good looking."
Sunshine on leith 2013 film edinburgh castle cafe screenshot
"Hey! What are you guys talking about?"
Despite it's basic technical failings and some truly infuriating moments, however, Sunshine on Leith is a feel-good movie worthy of the name; you'll laugh, you'll probably not cry but there are a few sad bits, you'll sing along and most of all you'll have a good time. It gets extra points for managing to throw in a cheeky Trainspotting reference too.

Sunshine on leith 2013 film trainspotting reference screenshot

Overall Ben Equivalence Rating

Making a Homeless Person Sing for Spare Change - 
Surprisingly well performed, charming and very easy to achieve in Leith.

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