Set in a small village in Wales in 1976, Hunky Dory sees a charismatic but unconventional young teacher Miss Vivienne May (Minnie Driver) trying to nurture her students’ latent artistic flair by staging a rock opera interpretation of Shakespeare’s The Tempest.
But talented though the teens are, the play is in danger of being scuppered because Davey (Aneurin Barnard) is constantly rebuffed by Stella (Danielle Branch), Kenny (Darren Evans )has fallen in with a gang of skinheads, Evan (Tomos Harries) is struggling with his sexuality and Jake (Rupert Grint look-a-like George Mackay) has started dating the sister (Kimberly Nixon) of his best mate (Adam Byard) behind his back.
Meanwhile, the play is receiving opposition from some of the school’s teachers who believe it encourages rebellious behaviour and is disrupting their more academic lessons.
It’s sort of a 1970s prototype for Glee, featuring as it does the songs of David Bowie, 10CC and The Beach Boys, albeit one with a more earthy tone and setting than the high-gloss and blinding white teeth of its modern contemporary and none of the obvious nauesating moralising.
The performances are universally strong: Minnie Driver is her usual charming self and manages to nail a tricky Welsh accent and the presence of Sports Teacher Mr Cafferty (Steve Speirs) is a constant looming physical threat. The kids too are excellent particularly Aneurin Barnard as dreamy-eyed Davey (who also has a rather impressive singing voice) and Darren Evans as the gawky Kenny (who looks like he could be a young version of Spud from Trainspotting).
The trouble is, it never settles down to focus on one character leaving its many plot lines poorly fleshed out. Consequently, the big emotional moments are never quite as moving as they should be.
This being a film about performance, there’s the expected “show must go on” mentality, so while the young cast struggle with their issues – sexuality, rejection, parental abandonment and classism – the production is also in constant jeopardy from one thing or another – be it turbulent relationships, parental disapproval or outright arson.
Hunky Dory may not venture beyond the comfortable safe realms of the “inspirational teacher movie” but it features some great performances from a good looking cast and is never less than pleasantly charming.