Hands up, who knows who The Proclaimers are? If you don’t have your hand up, you’re lying, because everyone on earth at least knows that “I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)” song that seems to be used in nearly every advert these days. However, encyclopaedic knowledge of The Proclaimers is not a requirement to enjoy this musical featuring their songs, a lovable and heart-warming romance song and dance piece set with Edinburgh as a backdrop.
Sunshine on Leith is several things. Firstly, it is very very Scottish. Secondly, it is incredibly bright and happy and cheerful. Thirdly, it is an unashamed romance story. If you can handle all of these points, you will have a great time with this film. If you don’t, it’s best to avoid it entirely.
The plot features Davy and Ally, two Scottish soldiers in Afghanistan who are about to return home. Ally is dating Davy’s sister Liz, and as they return home, Davy is introduced to Liz’s friend Yvonne. Love blossoms in-between the soldiers efforts to adjust to normal life, as well as the revealing of hidden family secrets and skeletons in the closet that threaten to break the happy couples apart. A cynic would call it Mama Mia-lite, but at the same time, it is a winning formula, and the actors are so charming and the setting so great that you may very well feel quite happy buying in the wholesome melodrama of the whole event.
The music is of course a highlight, and I found myself knowing many more of the songs than I would have thought, and nearly all were performed quite well. Some were used a bit shallowly, as though the deeper context of the lyrics would have been too much, but at the same time, the enthusiasm of the movie as a whole makes most of those moments forgivable.
For a home grown Scottish production, Sunshine on Leith is a great movie, and a wonderful testament to the musical qualities of that small nation. We may not understand it completely all over the world, but the universal qualities of love and happiness, however over the top they may be, will find resonance in plenty of audiences.