Cast: Jane Horrocks, Peter Mullan, George Mackay, Kevin Guthrie, Antonia Thomas, Freya Mavor
Running Time: 100 mins
The lowdown: Sweet-spirited, upbeat adaptation of The Proclaimer’s sell-out musical. Unfairly dubbed ‘MacMamma Mia’, Dexter Fletcher’s directorial follow-up to Wild Bill effectively utilises its source material. Friends Davy (MacKay) and Ally (Guthrie) return home from a disastrous call of duty in Afghanistan for the 25th wedding anniversary of Davy’s parents Rab (Mullan) and Jean (Horrocks) where past secrets and present doubts threaten to derail the celebrations. Silence your cynical side and journey north for a beery, teary, toe-tapping tale of home, heart and Hibernian FC.
The full verdict: If your knowledge of the bespectacled Reid brothers (aka The Proclaimers) and their back catalogue extends no further than I’m Gonna Be (500 miles), Letter From America and the ‘aha’ one from Shrek, the opening rendition of Sky Takes The Soul may come as quite a shock .
Originally written in support of Sri Lankan separatists The Tamil Tigers, now a meditation on death delivered by troops in Afghanistan, it immediately jolts you out of your musical comfort zone. Sunshine on Leith is no ‘Jock Of Ages’ and up until the jubilant finale wisely avoids over-stylised choreography in favour of rowdy pub-based confessions and intimate declarations of love, all set against a tourist board’s dream of Edinburgh.
Fletcher draws on his Bugsy Malone experiences to ensure the story doesn’t exist just to serve the songs, and the tunes benefit from the mixture of male and female voices softening the Reid’s trademark brogue, enabling the lyrics to shine through.
The young cast are uniformly excellent, ably supported by musical veteran Horrocks and the ever watchable Mullan. The only bum note is provided by Jason Flemyng in an underwritten role as Jean’s smitten boss, gurning furiously and Dad-dancing around an art gallery, he’s totally out of step with the otherwise naturalistic delivery.
The plot veers from Scotland to Soapland in the second half, courtesy of a convenient and contrived medical emergency but thanks to sterling performances and superb vocal work from Horrocks (whose interpretation of the titular track may leave some feeling a wee bit weepy), the melodrama is kept to a minimum and at the 500 strong, sing-a-long climax, it will be a cold heart that can’t warm to this sunshine.