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EIFF 2013: Glasgow rom-com ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ is vibrant but insubstantial

EIFF 2013: Glasgow rom-com ‘Not Another Happy Ending’ is vibrant but insubstantial

Not Another Happy Ending

Not Another Happy Ending
Written by David Solomons
Directed by John McKay
UK, 2013

Set in a spruced-up Glasgow, Not Another Happy Ending is an offbeat romantic comedy starring Karen Gillan as Jane, a quirky young novelist struggling to overcome a nasty bout of writer’s block. With the editorial guidance of her passionate but single-minded publisher, Tom (Stanley Weber), her debut autobiographical novel became a huge bestseller, as well as reuniting her with her estranged father (Gary Lewis) and landing her a relationship with a renowned but narcissistic screenwriter, Willie (Henry Ian Cusick). Relying on Jane’s new book to rescue his ailing publishing company, Tom believes that her newfound happiness is preventing her from writing and sets out to make her life as miserable as he can.

The underhand methods he resorts to provide the impetus for the plot, chipping away at Jane’s vulnerabilities and gradually eroding her chirpy disposition. Soon after becoming blocked, she starts talking to her central character, Darsie (Amy Manson), a glamorous version of herself who is desperate for a happy ending. The device works better than might have been expected, giving Jane a platform to work through her problems, although it does get a little silly when others are allowed to overhear their one-sided conversations. Tom’s partner in crime, Roddy (Iain De Caestecker), is also an interesting side character, his easy-going nature perfectly complimenting Tom’s feisty, Gallic personality.

Karen Gillan Not Another Happy Ending

Jane’s love-hate relationship with Tom does not exactly spring many surprises but is reasonably well-developed, especially at the beginning when it feels most sincere. Her other romantic interest, Willie, is too much of a stereotypical slimeball to have a hope of truly winning her affections, meaning the plot is fairly predictable and lacks any real drama. Neither Weber nor Cusick are able to add genuine depth to their limited roles, although both have their moments and approach the film in the right way. The subplot with Jane’s father turns out to be the most memorable strand of the narrative, with an honesty and emotional integrity that isn’t matched by the rest of the film.

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Not Another Happy Ending‘s biggest strength is its representation of Glasgow, painting the city in a vibrant, zesty light. It emerges as an exciting, cultural setting, almost comparable to the Paris or New York of the movies, full of bookshops, cafes, art galleries and even sunshine. The film succeeds in capturing the city’s distinctive character and style, particularly with regard to the buildings, taking place principally in authentic Glasgow flats and using shots of some well-known landmarks. The local soundtrack also adds to this dynamic portrayal, using upbeat indie music to set the mood, although the pop ballads that take over towards the end are noticeably less well-matched.

The film has more heart than most Hollywood rom-coms but, disappointingly, the formula turns out to be much the same. The resolution is downright awful; the script seems to run out of ideas entirely and resorts to the clichés that for the most part it manages to play down. For a film that is all about endings, it tries to be far too clever and ends up falling completely flat. Up to that point though, it is fairly well-written and consistently enjoyable, with some strong set pieces and light, spirited comedy. Its success is largely down to Gillan, who creates an extremely likeable central character and carries the film superbly with her optimism and gawky charm. While far from essential viewing, Not Another Happy Ending is an entertaining diversion and an example of mainstream Scottish cinema that easily holds its own.

Rob Dickie

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Not Another Happy Ending has its world premiere at the 67th Edinburgh International Film Festival.