Sometimes being predictable can be a good thing. My wife and I were in celebratory mood having received some long-awaited good news. We believe in marking the good things in life, so we decided on a movie (not exactly unusual for us, I guess) and a bite to eat after. So off we headed to Cape Town’s finest cinema, one of the very few independents left in the country, for Sunshine On Leith; a British film finally on a limited South African release, several months after it arrived in British cinema.
It’s a musical. Based on a stage show; which in turn was based around the songbook of Scottish pop duo The Proclaimers. The musical is itself a family drama/love story set around the return of two soldiers from service in Afghanistan; it is, of course, set in a beautifully shot Edinburgh, as much attention given to obscure back-alleys as it is to sweeping skylines. The film’s helped by some fine casting – Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks adding heavyweight talent to proceedings as the parents; the rest of the cast can all sing more than well enough, and look as comfortable acting as they are singing.
It helps, of course, that the songs are near perfect of their type, and with their folk inflected tone fit naturally into a storytelling structure. The context some songs end up with may be obvious a mile off, but no less the worse for it – what you’re imagining right now about Letter From America, for instance, is almost certainly right on the money.
Ultimately insubstantial as it is, the film is an addictive and life-affirming smile. I’m sure there are people who won’t enjoy it, and this may be my celebratory mood talking, but I find it hard to imagine how you end up in such a place with this film. The cast and director give themselves so entirely to the project that you’re swept-along on a tide of good feeling and well-wishing. It’s a joy, from start to finish.
I rated this film 4/5 on rottentomatoes.com and 8/10 on imdb.com