7:00 PM, 30th August, 2014
A bright and enjoyable musical romance based on the hit UK stage show of the same name. It centres on two young Scottish soldiers (Davy and Ally – MacKay and Guthrie) returning home to Leith, Edinburgh – luckily uninjured after their armoured vehicle is blown up by a Taliban IED in Afghanistan.
The movie is ‘old time Hollywood musical romance’ on one hand, with flash-mob style dancing and singing in streets and art galleries, along with subtle social commentary. As well as a great musical score built around popular songs by The Proclaimers, it addresses the difficulties faced by soldiers returning to limited job opportunities at home.
Working in a call centre, they attempt to rebuild their lives and loves – with uneven success. There is also a secret in Davy’s family which, while resolved in the film’s denouement, threatens to break up parents Rab and Jean (Peter Mullan and Jane Horrocks).
The energetic young cast acquit themselves well and after the final joyful song and dance scene between Davy and love object Yvonne (Thomas) the audience at the preview I attended left the cinema with a smile.
8:50 PM, 30th August, 2014
Didier (Heldenbergh) is a bluegrass musician living in Ghent, Belgium, who does a few local gigs with his friends – who seem statistically likely to be the only other bluegrass musicians living in Ghent, Belgium.
One day he runs into Elise (Baetens). She’s hot, blonde, tattooed, intriguing, also a passionate lover of bluegrass – and, cherry on the cake, a wonderful, soulful singer. With her, the band is complete. And so is Didier’s life – maybe even before the two marry and have a daughter.
But when the daughter dies of cancer at an early age, Elise no longer feels like living, and everything around her breaks down.
There are a couple of points of similarity here with one of the Coen brothers’ (to my mind) weaker films, Inside Llewyn Davis: both are deeply unhappy stories (although unhappy for different reasons – here, although the characters have their failings, it would be a harsh heart indeed that felt they deserved their suffering); both are periodically interrupted by songs – songs presented reverently, in their entirety, mesmerising us with a purity of purpose. In both cases it’s a distinctly American genre of music. Yet, strangely, it’s the Belgian performances that feel more authentic; they’re certainly much better music.
You may have been tempted to glance at your watch during some Inside Llewyn Davis performances. You won’t here.