2013 looks set to be a monumental year for Scottish film. Following the success of Pixar’s Brave last year, a number of small Scottish films have been fast tracked into production. This year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival has seen four exciting Scottish films get their worldwide premiere.
You have a powerful drama about the slow decay of a Scottish village in Blackbird; a mystery film focusing on one man’s lost memory in For Those In Peril; a Scottish documentary about a Californian rap duo in The Great Hip Hop Hoax, and to round it all up, a Glaswegian romantic comedy (no, seriously), which has been chosen to close this year’s festival. That film is Not Another Happy Ending.
The film stars Scottish lass Karen Gillen of Doctor Who fame, as struggling novelist Jane Lockhart. A woman with a quirky personality and hipster fashion sense. Lockhart succeeds in obtaining a publishing contract with French publisher Tom Duval (Stanley Webber), a stereotypically grumpy French publisher. But what Lockhart hands in to him is not what’s eventually released to the public. Despite the novel’s success, Lockhart vows to write another novel in order to terminate her contract with Duvall and be free of his grip.
However, because of the novel’s success and her new boyfriend (Henry Ian Cusack), she develops writer’s block, and can’t finish the final chapter. What soon follows are Duval’s constant attempts to get Lockhart to finish the book and out of his life. He goes to extreme lengths to achieve this, but what actually happens may do the exact opposite altogether.
Although it isn’t strong throughout, Not Another Happy Ending has its heart in the right place. The film’s strength lies with its interesting story, and its unheralded, but talented cast. Many of whom you’ll recognise from smaller roles on better known shows such as Skins, Lost & Doctor Who. Cinematically, Not Another Happy Ending uses an unusual collection of bright colours when showing off Glasgow. As someone who has commuted to Glasgow a lot in my lifetime, it was quite a shock as I’ve only ever seen the run-down, dirty bitterness, consumed by smoke and congestion. The film paints over that unpleasant side of Glasgow, and gives the audience a more culturally and artistically optimistic view of the city – which, with hindsight, works surprisingly well on screen.
That being said, the film does contain weak elements that prevents the film from being a complete success. The film’s first act is very cluttered and sloppily put together, it contains dialogue which doesn’t sound realistic, and feels more like something you would read in a first draft of a script, rather than a final cut.
While it does have a strong cast, some of the better actors have minimal screen time. Freya Mayor, for example. She has a handful of scenes in the film and in all of them she glows brighter than anyone else involved. It’s a talent I was disappointed to see featured so little. Kate Dickie was another; given only a handful of scenes and should’ve been featured much, much more.
The film has been compared to the work of directors like Woody Allen and Ken Loach, back when they made simplistic films with a sense of realism and relatable characters. In fact, it’s hard to pin point any direct, as it’s a film in an unusual setting, with a story that’s pretty original and an ending that’s hard to predict.
Despite these criticisms, it does have hit potential. It’s bound to do well in Scotland, but we’ll have to wait and see if it does as well in the UK and internationally. With a powerfully likable cast, colourful visuals, and a fresh portrait of Glaswegian life and its inner city culture