Ok. Look. There are some things an old old man like Jack here shouldn’t see. They disrupt the blood pressure by coming at you with challengingly feel-good stories, properly weird acting and beautiful girls in bikinis. And are bad. Not in a not-trying way, because they are stuffed with professionals aiming at love, laughs and excusable man-gazing. What’s not to enjoy? Well, as it happens, on a dark, locked down night with a wheezing pervert in the TV room, Scottish Mussel.
The story: a jack the lad of Glaswegian puckishness (Martin Compston‘s Ritchie) and his mates are drawn to pearl poaching in the testing waters of the Highlands. There’s a trade in the things, apparently. The buddies bounce about with an air of 1950s’ comic criminality, failing at everything. Which is rather endearing in the first minute or so. Unfortunately, they become the film equivalent of comedy jazz playing along to Ritchie’s emotional journey. And old Jack here fucking hates jazz.
The earnest lead of the film is Beth, a scientist of noticeably stunning looks. Talulah Riley – writer, director and Beth – chivvies her up with conservationist ambition, a nearly modern treatment of and by comedy colleagues and a mission to protect those pearls and the mussels they nestle in. None of which turn Ritchie’s head so much as Beth in a bikini.
Yup. Love starts in a cold climate. In fresh-water. And scenes guaranteed to entrance a committee of fourteen year old boys. And girls with similar tastes. And the ones on journeys who crave lady love. And Wheezy Wally.
Recently returned from the COVID ward at the General with a glow of universal luck, Wally sat through the bikini scenes, which punctuated a whole ton of stuff about gangsters, angry police, and the passionless change in Ritchie’s heart, with what end-of-life Nurse Palliative calls a death retch. A lusty one. The film didn’t expect more of him.
Whilst the cast try very very hard, they also go at your patience with accents from places on Earth old Jack here has been to and took offence for. Those 1950s comedies at least had Gordon Jackson and a cold heart to get you by. Riley’s work has way too warm a heart and…actually, that’s the problem. I craved a cold edge: characters dying amusingly, heroics failing nobly, the central rom-com-couple fighting to be together and fix insurmountable odds. The film instead gets crushed under a pile of caricatures, a dull female character and an on-the-way-to-dull-so-you-know-well-matched male character. Such is vanilla love.
That said, the film is nice to look at. Smatterings of Dunoon pretending to be further north, some comfortable comedy faces (Harry Enfield scowls) and carefully placed beauty of the lead by the lead…well, old Jack just wished Wheezy Wally hadn’t survived and I’d got to the remote ahead of him.
Lessons for the old?
Um…take blood pressure meds before watching this. For whatever reason you need them.