Sunshine on Leith review

It's cliched to trot out that well worn phrase "feelgood movie of the year", but Sunshine on Leith certainly fulfils that remit. I loved it. It's an infectious Scottish musical adapted from writer Greenhorns's play utilising the songs of the Proclaimers as the background to the romantic tribulations that befall six characters in sunny Edinburgh.

Soldiers Davy (MacKay) and Ally (Guthrie) return from duty to their hometown. Davy's sister Liz (Mavor) is in love with Ally but is she ready to settle down if he proposes? Davy's parents (Mullan and Horrocks) are about to celebrate their 25th wedding anniversary but their love is ruptured somewhat by a connection to pater's past. Davy himself falls for Liz's workmate, comely Yvonne (Thomas), but their relationship is tested by his behaviour as they are getting to know each other.

The personal troubles the characters face are all utterly conventional, but you'll soon overlook this as you're swept up by the movie's good cheer. The songs occur at the most obvious moments – Letter From America, the title song and I'm Gonna Be (500 Miles) are the only ones I was familiar with but 10 more are sprinkled throughout, all performed by the players with unbridled zest and vigour – Mullan comes off worst in the singing stakes but his performance is immensely touching nonetheless.

Director Fletcher, who made an auspicious debut behind the camera last year with the excellent Wild Bill, embraces the artificiality of the musical form with relentless exuberance. Sunshine on Leith couldn't be more different to his previous effort, an absorbing East End crime tale. He's completely manipulative in achieving his affects here. If you're easily swayed you'll be sobbing at the sentimentality that's thickly ladled on, but you'll also be joyously in thrall to this musical's winning ways in making you completely invested in these likeable characters.

Fletcher is an immensely gifted director. He has pulled off the sheer strangeness of this endeavour with confident zeal and impish intelligence. Go with an open heart and surrender yourself to it – you'll forget your troubles and come out feeling bloody marvellous. It's a beauty.

Sunshine on Leith at IMDb

Stuart O'Connor is the Managing Editor of Screenjabber, the movie review website he co-founded with Neil Davey far too many years ago. He likes all genres, as long as the film is good (although he does enjoy the occasional bad "guilty pleasure"), and drinks way too much coffee.

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