Review: Not Another Happy Ending

Karen Gillan NAHEEdinburgh International Film Festival Preview

Directed by John McKay

Starring Karen Gillan, Stanley Weber, Iain de Caestecker, Amy Manson, Gary Lewis, Henry Ian Cusick

Glasgow-based blocked novelist Jane Lockhart (Gillan) can only write when she’s unhappy, so her French publisher (Weber) sets out to make her miserable and to win her back from a self-obsessed screenwriter (Cusick). Additional problems ensue when Jane starts seeing the protagonist (Manson) of her new novel come to life, and has to deal with a reconciliation with her long absent father (Lewis).

There are some good ideas (and a great cast) in this Scottish-set unconventional rom-com, and as Karen Gillan’s first major role post-Amy Pond (in Doctor Who), it works fairly well and will no doubt attract a certain audience. Unfortunately, in trying to juggle various disparate elements—romantic comedy, writerly drama, sales pitch for Glasgow, and touches of fantasy—this is a cake whose ingredients fail to come together successfully (Gillan’s character, novelist Jane Lockhart, bakes whenever she suffers writer’s block).

The script (by David Solomons), structure and tone are all over the place and the entire piece feels too ‘written’, making it difficult for the cast (in particular poor Gillan, it has to be said) to make the most of the material they have to work with. More basically, Not Another Happy Ending is simply not funny enough. There are a few incidental wry smiles to be had (especially for anyone who knows anything about the Scottish publishing scene), but there are next to no laugh out loud moments. In fact, the funniest bit is a seemingly improvised scene featuring Iain de Caestekcer (The Fades and the forthcoming Agents of SHIELD) that follows the end credits.

The fantasy comes in the form of Amy Manson (Being Human, Outcasts), who appears to Jane as the protagonist of her new novel, the one she’s having trouble finishing. Manson steals every scene she’s in, carrying off her vintage look far better than Gillan does her bizarre Annie Hall-inspired wilfully ‘kooky’ outfits. Perhaps Manson would have made a better lead…?

Stanley _amp_ Karen - NAHEDespite the longueurs in the script, John McKay’s direction (he also directed the Gillan-starring TV movie We’ll Take Manhattan) is sparky, doing the by-now standard job of depicting Glasgow as a hip’n’happening media city. In the later stages, however, Not Another Happy Ending can’t avoid hitting the viewer with the heritage view of Scotland, all bleak-but-beautiful countryside and woolly jumpers.

It’s a shame, as Not Another Happy Ending is a film that should have worked and it is one that many people will want to like, but the filmmakers and the cast have simply failed to rise to the occasion. It’s sad that this year’s Edinburgh International Film Festival should close with something of a stinker, but it appears a combination of commercial concerns and the need to showcase Scottish-made material has meant that small-p politics has trumped quality control considerations.

Verdict: Where’s Bill Forsyth when you need him? 5/10

Brian J. Robb

Not Another Happy Ending is the Closing Gala Film of the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival, screening on Sunday 30 June at 8:45pm in Edinburgh’s Festival Theatre. Karen Gillan will be in attendance.

 

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