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: Filth

A few days ago I posted here about the picture postcard moments of Sunshine on LeithFilth – also released in 2013 – turns that image of Edinburgh on its head, all thanks to the mind of Irvine Welsh – from whose book the movie was adapted.

But once again “Edinburgh” isn’t all that it seems, as Glasgow stood in for the capital in filming of a number of scenes. We will come to the Glasgow locations in a moment, but what of the film itself?

The story follows James McAvoy’s Detective Sergeant Bruce Robertson in the run up to Christmas – he’s vying for a promotion, has to handle the case of a murdered Japanese student… and appears to have lost the plot. For anyone, like me, who hadn’t read the book the trailers suggested an extra sweary tale of a bent cop but this is far more than that. There are persistent moments of madness – most of them coming from DS Robertson – throughout. Not so much of the rock and roll, but plenty of sex and drugs.

I think the main talking point of Filth however has to be the cast. Had the Better Together politicians been able to get this lot on board for its campaign, then the outcome of September’s independence referendum may well have been a foregone conclusion – for it is a “Best of British” ensemble that works incredibly well together. McAvoy is joined by many of Scotland’s finest, including Martin Compston, Iain De Caestecker, Kate Dickie, Emun Elliott, Shirley Henderson, Gary Lewis, John Sessions, Jonathan Watson and Jordan Young. Yet on top of that list there is still room for some of the most respected English names in acting today – Jamie Bell (now no stranger to shooting in Glasgow), Jim Broadbent, Joanne Froggatt, Eddie Marsan and Imogen Poots. Oh… and there’s an American for good measure too – David Soul in one brief and bizarre sequence.

Many of the above play distinctly against type – McAvoy in particular excels as the twisted mess that is Robertson. Gary Lewis is oafish and Iain De Caestecker is a million miles from his studious characters in Young James Herriot and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. And I may be alone in this, but usually I find Jim Broadbent’s performances a bit “samey” – it’s amazing what putting on an Australian accent can do though.

So what about Glasgow’s role in Filth?

Among the locations we see are Park Circus, where Robertson’s house is located, and James Watt Street – where he is taken into the building that houses GTW Storage. The flat in which De Caestecker’s character Ocky stays is portrayed on the outside by a large Cardonald block of flats, but on the inside by the atrium of Sauchiehall Street’s Beresford building.

Starring Role: Donkeys

Donkeys – released in 2010, and winning Best Film at the 2011 BAFTA Scotland Awards – was the second release in a planned trilogy from the Scottish-Danish “Advance Party” collaboration. The first instalment was 2006’s Red Road and characters from that film Stevie (Martin Compston) and Jackie (Kate Dickie) return to play parts in a very different story. Tony Curran’s Clyde from Red Road also makes the most fleeting of cameo appearances.Donkeys 6

The most central characters are however old friends Alfred (James Cosmo) and Brian (Brian Pettifer). The film begins with the pair sitting in an empty looking Glasgow Airport, preparing to set off for a new life in Spain, however the plans stall and we soon learn that Alfred is not a well man. He sets out to straighten out parts of his life before it is too late – including trying to reconnect with his daughter Jackie and meeting and getting to know his illegitimate son Stevie, going about the latter in an unconventional way that causes awkwardness for all concerned. James Cosmo – rarely cast as a lead character – is excellent as Alfred, a man who is not a bad guy but displays some incredible stupidity that affects everyone around him.Donkeys 5

Donkeys is a fine example of a black comedy – there are some truly touching moments, but a number of hilarious lines. Malaga being described as “basically a warm Pontin’s” and Alfred using the phrase “they get things out” when telling his granddaughter about the birds and the bees are just two of the examples of the humour that features throughout.

A wealth of Glasgow locations all across the city are used in the film, including The Barras market, Queens Park and Anderston – where Alfred’s flat is located.

Starring Role: Red Road

red roadred road 2red road 3Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize, multiple Scottish BAFTAs, rave reviews packed with words like “magnificent”, “classy” and “enticing”… Red Road is a must see for thriller aficionados. Yet it is done in a style that perhaps Glasgow can deliver best in terms of both its location and its talent – it is a thriller without races against time, melodrama and Psycho-style music strains; it is a thriller with pedestrian settings,  down to earth but still first class acting and a story that keeps the viewer curious and then rewards them with a big reveal.

The film stars East Kilbride born Kate Dickie as Jackie, a CCTV operator watching over the streets of Glasgow from the small and dark confines of an operations centre. Jackie appears to be someone with a void in her life – starting with a slightly awkward encounter with her father in law, we gradually learn more about her family life as the story develops and it becomes clear that she is someone who has suffered loss. She is also having an affair with one of her colleagues.

Early in the film Jackie becomes interested by a man she spots on one of the monitors and this begins to develop into an obsession to the point that she heads to the area on which she has seen him on screen – Barmulloch and the Red Road flats of the titles. Spying on him initially from afar, the seemingly quiet and inward Jackie even lies her way into a party in the flats to come face to face with the man. It is at the party that we are introduced to the other main characters: Clyde, the object of her interest, played by Glasgow’s Tony Curran; his friend Stevie, played by Martin Compston; and Stevie’s girlfriend April, played by Natalie Press.

Jackie spends more time with the three Red Road residents, leading to passionate scenes involving her and Clyde. But sex has not been her aim and ultimately we discover what has been fuelling her obsession. The character of Jackie is likeable and – as mentioned earlier – down to earth and therefore it is satisfying to see the woman finish the film as a happier and more relaxed individual than she is for most of the feature.

As for Glasgow’s role in the film – it is not an image of grandeur that is painted,  but the area of the city most prominently featured is presented with realism and without resorting to negative caricatures.