Sunshine on Leith Review

The Film

It shouldn't work, but it does in the most joyous way possible. For his second directorial outing (following 2011’s underrated Wild Bill), Dexter Fletcher looked to Stephen Greenhorn’s stage musical Sunshine on Leith featuring the music of The Proclaimers. As the stage version did, the film follows two soldiers Davy (George MacKay) and Ally (Kevin Guthrie) as they attempt to settle back into normal life. If that setup makes it sound heavy, fear not: Sunshine on Leith was one of last year’s most charming and heartfelt films.

The real beauty of it is that you don’t even really need to be a Proclaimers fan to appreciate it. One of Fletcher’s sharpest decisions – aside from having Greenhorn on writing duties – was to cast two of Britain’s national treasures in the form of Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks. As the parents of Davy, the two provide the film with a strong emotional centre as their relationship hits its own challenge; Horrocks’ version of the title track might even be the stand-out musical moment of the whole film.

MacKay, Guthrie and the rest of the talented cast (including Misfits’ Antonia Thomas and Skins’ Freya Mavor) more than hold their own though, each providing their own highlight. While the film can sometimes feel stagey, it’s easy to forgive when said moments deliver blisteringly entertaining set pieces such as a terrific mock wedding set to ‘Let’s Get Married’. Safe to say, if you can’t enjoy watching Jason Flemyng busting some moves to ‘Should Have Been Loved’, then Sunshine on Leith might not be for you. Also, yes, it is the kind of musical where relationship problems are solved by bursting out into song.

But if you aren’t a stick-in-the-mud, then Sunshine on Leith is guaranteed to put a smile on your face. By the time *that* song rolls around in surprisingly touching fashion at the climax, your main complaint will be that it’s all over too soon. From gangster drama to crowd-pleasing musical, Dexter Fletcher is swiftly developing into one of the UK’s most exciting talents behind the camera, and we’d happily walk 500 miles to watch what he does next. Sorry, couldn’t help ourselves.

The Disc

Presented in its original 2.39:1 aspect ratio and with a choice of DTS-HD 5.1 and LPCM Stereo soundtracks (plus optional English SDH subs), Sunshine on Leith’s transfer is often sharp. It might not exactly be demo material but it does deliver stand-out moments, in particular the silhouetted sequence for ‘Then I Met You'. Fortunately for a film that’s often set in bright locations, with a notable exception of the film’s Afghanistan-set opening sequence, the transfer avoids over-saturation and comes to life in the film’s big crowd set pieces.

Perhaps most crucially, the DTS 5.1 soundtrack is pleasingly vibrant and full-bodied for the film’s frequent music interludes, with meaty bass when required and quiet focus for the softer numbers where all that matters is the vocals. With the right sound system, the climactic ‘I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles)’ is practically euphoric.

Opening with trailers for fellow EIV releases Lee Daniels’ The Butler, One Chance and The Harry Hill Movie, the only other extra on the disc is five deleted scenes, totalling just over 12 minutes. Most substantial of the five is an alternate take on the film’s finale, an altogether more playful version of ‘500 Miles’ with the cast looking directly at camera performing it. Fletcher went with the right choice for the final version of the film, but it’s a fun alternative nonetheless.

The main disappointment with the lack of extras is the absence of anything detailing the stage-to-screen process, even in the form of a brief talking faces making-of.

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