Tuesday 8 October 2013


Based on songs of the singing Reid twins, 'The Proclaimers', I wasn't even aware that this had already been a 'successful' stage musical. Also, as having known only three or four of the songs, the ones that were the duo's most famous hits, maybe I'm not best placed to call judgment. However, I offer my reaction to 'Leith' as a film.

Mention has to be made of the photography. I don't think I've ever seen Edinburgh look so glorious, both by day and by night. Rather than fleeting glimpses, I wish there'd been one or two more longer scenes with a panoramic city backdrop on which one could feast one's eyes. (I've been there just twice, the last being way back in 1981, and both times were for the Festival, hardly ideal for seeing it at its best or most everyday typical.)

This story involves two young army buddies returning home to Edinburgh after a stint of duty in Afghanistan. They return to their respective fiancees, one of them living again with his parents, the always dependable Peter Mullen and Jane Horrocks (the latter's Scottish accent sounding uncannily dead on target - but then ever since 'Little Voice' we've known that she can work miracles with that voice of hers.)
Director, Felix Dexter, whom I've known mainly as an actor for decades, does a good job behind the camera. (Early screen appearances include 'Baby Face' in Alan Parker's 'Bugsy Malone' [1976] as well as  in Derek Jarman's 'Caravaggio' [1986] )  I'm told that it was he making a brief, dimly-lit appearance as an inebriated pub customer exiting onto the street, glass in hand, and making his presence.....'heard'.
Oh, and near the start of the film, if you blink you may well miss the composing brothers themselves coming out of the same pub, in daylight this time.

All the upbeat songs are great fun and choreographed with a big heart - and that is the way the film itself is for the first half. A couple of the earlier songs are set in a pub - 'Let's Get Married' is particularly well accomplished, with one Michael Keat almost stealing the show as the barman. A later one with Jason Flemyng, surprisingly good at singing and dancing (well, a bit), was nearly another show-stopper.

But it takes an emotional dive into ultra-seriousness half-way, for both the young couples as well as for the parents, each with their own issues to resolve or overcome (I didn't quite get what had happened between the older pair). Here I found it did start to drag, providing longueurs which left me craving for another chirpy song and dance, though having to wait it out right until the kind of flash-mob finale arrived. But when it did come it was certainly very exhilarating.

I felt the film was a mixed success. All the acting could hardly be faulted. Most of the singing was high standard too, and most of the songs held their own. I was half-expecting Peter Mullen to growl through his lyrics but he managed quite a creditable effort. I think I was most uneasy with the great gulf of contrast between high-spirits and emotional lows. I realise that stories do need some grit to keep the audience interested but it didn't quite gell for me here. But that's my only really serious quibble, otherwise it's pretty good fun, on the whole.
Having thought about it overnight, I can't quite explain why, in view of the positive things I say about the film, I haven't given it a higher rating. The failure to meld the happy and the downbeat is, for me, the heart of the difficulty. I think other musicals manage it better, though that's not to say that there isn't a lot to enjoy here.
I think in terms of overall satisfaction a fair rating would be.............................6.5


  1. Another one for the list. I think it's time to start doing film "feeds" here!

    1. This one might have more parochial appeal, Mitch - and by that I mean the U.K. as a whole rather than specifically Scotland - but I might be, and I hope I am, wrong. I would definitely NOT try to dissuade anyone from seeing as the 'good' parts are very effective indeed.
      Btw: During the film it came to mind reading how some non-British audiences, particularly American, would prefer to have some of our accents subtitled. Nothing wrong with that. Although I had no difficulty in following the dialogue it would be silly to imagine that no one else does, after all in this film it's a pretty broad one and spoken by most of the cast. But if they managed with Robin William's' Mrs Doubtfire accent then they should cope with this.

  2. I watched the trailer and some of the music on Youtube and I think I would experience a thoroughly enjoyable evening out at the theater. However, I am totally unfamiliar with the cast (except for Jane H.) and the music. I believe this one is made for the UK and very unlikely to hit the shores of America. But we will see.

    1. It's sure to give you a 'lift', Paul, and as I say, my big regret was that it wasn't all on that level. But then I might have complained about it lacking depth!
      Peter Mullen is quite a well-known film and TV actor here, a 'genuine' Scot - and when he has a beard (he doesn't in this) is a real hottie 'Daddy' for me. But he's also darned good at acting with a wide range.
      I agree that because the 'Proclaimers' are not so well known out of this country then that could well stymie the chances of this getting a theatrical release anywhere else. (They had just 3 Top 20 hits here, in the late 80s.) But even seeing it on DVD anyone without a heart of stone wouldn't be able to resist the 'feelgood' factor - and the end left us leaving the cinema if not singing, then at least humming. It's a 'kick-away-the-blues' film - and anyway, musicals on screen are an endangered species these days.

  3. oh. I didn't know if this would be worth it. Edinburgh has a huge place in my heart. After mama mia I cant help but think I would compare it.

    Maybe it is one to see if a girly friend will want to see...

    1. Go alone, Sol. I did - but I always do.
      If you like Edinburgh (and who doesn't?) just the locations are sure to tug your heart-strings.
      Forget 'Mamma Mia' if you can, because in a contest that would always be the winner. 'Leith' can stand up on its own.

  4. Even though I speak to Scottish people every single day in my job, I felt it needed subtitles in places! :-)

    And Edinburgh looked great and I knew a lot of the places, which helped the film for me. Happy to fast forward through the songs - I just couldn't see the point of including them!

    1. I'd go along with your first sentence, Stephen. It's something I feel in a lot of films where the accent is prominent, most recently in the very good and quirky 'Under the Skin'.

      Now seven months after having seen the film I must admit it's the songs that I remember - or rather the way they were performed rather than the songs themselves. But I think you're right in that the musical moments probably
      hindered the underlying drama rather than helped it. Still, it was a pleasant change in type of film - a bit 'off the beaten track'.