Everybody knows one or two songs by the Proclaimers. If nothing else, you could 500 Miles out of your locker, and probably Letter From America too. After that you might be struggling. I was a bit, I have to say. Watching Sunshine On Leith you quickly realise that somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind some other tunes have lodged themselves. Not only that, you also realise that you really should pay attention to their music more.
Sunshine On Leith is a jukebox musical, one of those creatures that tries to take the songs of one artist, hitch on a story and attempts to pull in nostalgic punters. The most famous of these is Mamma Mia, the Abba musical (which I have not seen), but there’s also We Will Rock You, the Queen musical which, despite miserable reviews, has been running in the west end for years now. And recently there was a Spice Girls musical written by Jennifer Saunders which fell flat on its face.
Based on the reputation of those which have gone before, one might not hold out much hope for Sunshine On Leith, but those fears are rapidly dispelled. The film feels down to earth and, despite being a musical, real.
The story starts with two young soldiers, Davy & Ally, returning from a tour in Afghanistan and tells the story of 3 relationships at different points in their journeys. Ally is in a relationship with Davy’s sister and has big plans. Davy strikes up a relationship with a colleague of his sister, and then Davy’s parents’ long marriage comes under some strain.
The three stories are, to varying degrees, flimsy, and in the case of Davy’s parents, not properly worked through, but ultimately the weaknesses inherent in the stories is papered over, and with no little joy, by the songs.
It’s interesting that you would expect the songs to feel crowbarred in but that actually they fit very well. In fact, in many cases they feel like they were written for the film and not the other way around. Perhaps it’s because of the folk background of the music means that many of the songs feel as though they should be sung in around a piano in a pub or similar that means that fit the environs of a musical better than, for example, the back catalogue of Abba. The singalong-ability of many of the tunes also draws you in as an audience and makes you forgive the other shortcomings of the film.
The performances are uniformly good, especially from the two leads and a surprising turn from Peter Mullan as Davy’s father, and the film is guaranteed to send you away with a smile on your face and, perhaps, a tear in your eye..
Film Length: 1hr 40 – Feels Like: 1hr 30
And a special bonus video…