Film Review: Sunshine on Leith

Unashamedly cheesy, yet somehow brilliant.

Why the sun just won’t stop shining on Leith.

As a general rule, I’d like to think of myself as a cinema goer of relatively sophisticated taste. I usually tend towards the hard-hitting intellectual stuff: war documentaries, silent movies, anything in black and white, preferably in French. Pretentious I know, but I’m nineteen year old arts student, so it’s relatively excusable. Sunshine on Leith then, a cheesy movie-musical, about two young squaddies and their families trying to find love and rehabilitation in modern Edinburgh, hardly fits within my usual movie trajectory. On paper it’s a train-wreck of a movie: a sickly sweet combination of romantic comedy and ex-service men finding happiness, all set to the hackneyed tunes of The Proclaimers, nothing about this should work, but it does. Despite my better judgement, I find myself completely, embarrassingly in love with Sunshine on Leith

The plot follows the trial and tribulations of Afghanistan-hardened veterans, Ally and Davy, as they try to reintegrate themselves back into civilian life in Edinburgh. Davy falls head over heels in love with English nurse, Yvonne, and Ally tries to win the heart of Davy’s headstrong sister Liz, admittedly with less success. It’s a movie for all the family; parallel to this runs the story of Davy and Liz’s parents, whose twenty year marriage is rocked on the discovery of Rab’s (ridiculous Scottish names in abundance here) previously unknown love child.

There's serious issues at heart here. Previously unknown illegitimate children, always tricky; seemingly irreconcilable cultural boundaries, remember Davy’s new girl is English, wouldn't want to risk muddying any Caledonian blood you see, and of course, a generous dose of heartbreak. A personal favourite scene of mine, is when Liz informs Ally, that sing as he may, she just isn't going to sleep with him (set cheerily to the words of Make My Heart Fly). Personally, I've never yet deterred any over-zealous young suitors by singing badly at them, but next time the situation occurs, I'm sure to try it.

And you can't deny that Edinburgh looks fantastic. As wide shots capture the city basked in golden sunlight, you get a sense of sheer majesty, a beauty that is often lost to those whom, like myself, Edinburgh is so familiar. Leith's also been tarted up nicely for the occasion. I suspect the local tourist agency (if such a thing exists) will be having a field-day, given their last major film representation was in Trainspotting, which though, gritty, drug-fuelled and generally brilliant, was hardly a great advert for potential home buyers and holiday makers.

At the all singing, all dancing, romantic finally (to 500 Miles, naturally) I weep. My Cambridge born cinema companion shares no such sentiment, so I presume it must be a cultural thing. I must admit, this is a very bizarre social experience for me; the only other time it seems borderline acceptable to openly cry to The Proclaimers is at weddings, and then there’s always the excuse of being significantly less sober. I’m not sure whether to be surprised or embarrassed with myself, so settle for a combination. 

In essence, Sunshine on Leith is a fundamentally rubbish movie. We're talking about a movie-musical about two overly cheerily ex-service men, set to the songs of Scotland’s most clichéd rock band. It’s the kind of screenplay that one might come up with after one too many drinks on Hogmanay. Yet, while no triumph in cinematic artistry, Sunshine on Leith, is a truly heart-warming, if somewhat corny, feel good, pick-me-up. Mostly though, it’s a headache for my flatmates; I’ve been belting out Proclaimers hits in the shower for the past two weeks now, and show absolutely no signs of abating.