Movie Glaswegians: Freya Mavor

freya mavorAs one of the younger members of Glasgow’s lengthy film acting roll of honour, Freya Mavor’s screen career is in its infancy however the term “quality, not quantity” can be applied to the handful of on screen roles that she has built up so far.

While she grew up and studied in Edinburgh (and also studied at one point in France), Mavor was born in Glasgow – on 13th August 1993 – and therefore qualifies without question for the “Movie Glaswegians” strand of this blog. Furthermore her two feature film credits to date – Sunshine on Leith and Not Another Happy Ending – were both made in the city.

On the small screen she has played parts in mini-series The White Queen and New Worlds, and was one of the main characters in the fifth and sixth series of Channel 4 comedy drama Skins. The latter has had a good track record of employing young actors – Nicholas Hoult, Jack O’Connell, Dev Patel, to name a few – who go on to have successful film careers so this could bode well for Freya Mavor too. Film magazine Screen International predicts a bright future for the actress, naming her – along with the likes of Cush Jumbo, Luke Newberry and Will Poulter – as one of their “UK Stars of Tomorrow” in 2013.

Starring Role: Not Another Happy Ending

not another happy ending a1Not Another Happy Ending is one of the more recent films to have been shot and set in Glasgow, premiering at 2013’s Edinburgh International Film Festival and going on general release later that year. It is a romantic comedy that sees a French publisher set out to make his star writer’s life a misery when he realises that she works best when despondent, and that a recent run of happiness in her life is the cause of a case of writer’s block that is preventing her from laying the next golden egg.

not another happy endingKaren Gillan leads the cast as the aforementioned writer, Jane, with Paris-born Stanley Weber as publisher Tom. The production attracted much attention for being Gillan’s first major film role since taking the high profile part of  “companion” Amy Pond in Doctor Who, and pleasingly it’s a good start for a movie career that is continuing to gain momentum with Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy being the next release due to carry her name in its credits. She delivers a good, solid performance and most importantly a likeable character. Weber’s Tom is a good character too – an easily riled, lovelorn Frenchman is something different for a Glasgow-set feature.

not another happy ending 1aThe strong cast also features Iain De Caestecker, Kate Dickie, Freya Mavor, Gary Lewis and Henry Ian Cusick. Lewis – as Jane’s father, Benny –  gives a more subtle performance than he has done in a number of things I’ve seen him in recently, and Cusick is very convincing as a smarmy and obnoxious screenwriter. The prominence of Freya Mavor’s billing on the film is somewhat surprising in relation to the fairly limited amount of time she has on screen compared to Dickie, Lewis and Cusick.

not another happy ending 2I have a couple of minor criticisms for what I believe is an otherwise very decent film. I felt that the character of Roddy (Tom’s closest friend, played by Iain De Caestecker) was perhaps a bit too cartoonish, even for the quirky environment that the rest of the film paints. And the relationship between Jane and Willie (Henry Ian Cusick) does not seem believable in my opinion.

not another happy ending 3Let’s get back to the positives though, and a massive green tick for the way in which Glasgow is used in Not Another Happy Ending. There are frequent montages of city views – look out for plenty of landmarks and businesses, including: the Gallery of Modern Art; Jane and Tom in Delizique on Hyndland Street; Graphical House and the Mr Ben retro clothing store on King Street; Hutchesons’ Hall; the Barrowlands; the Necropolis; the Kingston Bridge; Jane running through the rain past the Co-Operative Building on Morrison Street; Jane and Tom standing with Glasgow Cathedral in the background… Given the subject matter there are also a number of book shop appearances – including the real life Voltaire and Rousseau and Waterstones stores, and the former Borders (now Zizzi’s restaurant) building on Royal Exchange Square bearing a “Mocha Books” sign. And a special mention for original locations goes to the use of the Glasgow Vintage Vehicle Trust in Bridgeton, where some of the city’s famous old green and orange buses provide the backdrop for a book launch scene.

not another happy ending 4But the love letter to Glasgow goes beyond simply showing off the city’s architecture and green spaces. There are nice little nods throughout, from the touristy Glasgow mug on Tom’s desk to Benny’s City of Culture T-Shirt and a soundtrack that includes the likes of Huevo & The Giant and Twin Atlantic.

Stunt Double: Sunshine on Leith

You don’t have to like musicals to enjoy Sunshine on Leith… and I’m not even going to add “…but it helps” to that, because it genuinely is good fun whatever your usual tastes are. It is not show tunes and jazz hands; it is not an oddly chosen historical or biblical subject (for example Evita or Jesus Christ Superstar) translated into song – adapted from Stephen Greenhorn’s stage musical of the same name, it is a tale of ordinary folk featuring the songs of The Proclaimers. And who doesn’t like The Proclaimers?

Revolving mainly around the love lives of friends Davy and Ally, their girlfriends Yvonne and Liz (also Davy’s sister) and Davy and Liz’ parents Rab and Jean, we follow the characters’ ups and downs as the boys return from army duty in Afghanistan, Rab and Jean prepare for their silver wedding anniversary and Liz considers making a big change to her life. Some of the dialogue can be a little cheesy in places and a couple of arguments that the younger couples have are a bit on the soap opera side of melodramatic – but one could say the same about the likes of Grease and West Side Story, and they have justifiably cemented themselves as classics of the genre.

The characters are all very likeable and portrayed as such by George MacKay (Davy), Kevin Guthrie (Ally), Antonia Thomas (Yvonne), Freya Mavor (Liz), Peter Mullan (Rab) and Jane Horrocks (Jean). Mullan in particular impresses – more commonly associated with grittier films and roles, he seems comfortable in this setting and has a good chemistry with Horrocks.

Without wanting to get all sentimental though, both songs and cast are pipped at the post for the title of star of the show – that has to go to Scotland. The country has a rich and varied film history, but more often than not features are about swinging claymores, gang warfare or – thanks to another famous son of Leith – drug culture. Sunshine on Leith is upbeat and while we may not spend our days singing and dancing on the streets it portrays a more familiar representation of the society many of us are used to than some well known Scottish features. This is particularly evident in the final scene, where a crowd joins Davy and Yvonne outside Edinburgh’s National Gallery of Scotland for a rendition of I’m Gonna Be (500 Miles) – where shop assistants, office workers, builders, police officers, schoolchildren, skaters, tourists, pensioners and… er… a living statue join in the fun.

The National Gallery finale is just one of the moments where Edinburgh looks great in this film. The capital’s streets have never looked so good in cinema and there are some sweeping aerial shots – of both daytime and night-time – that would have VisitScotland salivating.

So did the producers come to Glasgow to shoot rougher edges of town? No – the lights of both Cresswell Lane and Candleriggs twinkle elegantly as the young couples go on dates in what is meant to be Edinburgh. Jean works in the aforementioned National Gallery of Scotland, but the interior used for filming is actually that of Kelvingrove Art Gallery and Museum. Sunshine on Leith uses more Glasgow locations than many films – including those actually set in the city – and other places we see include The Griffin (on Bath Street, just across from The King’s Theatre – which was one of the first venues to host the stage version of the musical) and Saracen’s Head (on Gallowgate) pubs, and Woodside Hall (which doubles as Leith Dockers Social Club).

There is also a cheeky little acknowledgement of Glasgow in the film. In one scene where Liz and Yvonne are helping Jean to find a dress (in another city location – Halo on Dumbarton Road) for her anniversary party, the latter asks Yvonne where she normally goes for shopping. Yvonne says “Glasgow”, to which Jean replies “That’s a bit desperate!”