Edinburgh International Film Festival Premiere: Chuck Chuck Baby
Stars: Louise Brealey, Annabel Scholey, Sorcha Cusack, Celyn Jones, Emily Fairn
Destined to be hawked around as ‘big-hearted’, this broad small-town musical romance is big on visuals but undone by poor writing.
Helen (Brealey, Molly from ‘Sherlock’) works in the titular chicken-packing factory in a small Welsh town where she spends days mucking about and singing with her close-knit all-female workmates. She still resides with her charmless, brutish ex-husband Gary (Jones) serving as a live-in carer for his ailing elderly mother Gwen (Cusack). Gary’s spiteful girlfriend Amy (Fairn) also lives with them.
Helen’s life of drudgery is upended by the arrival of Joanne (Scholey from ‘The Sixth Commandment’), an old school friend who moves in next door following the death of her father. The reappearance of the vivacious Joanne reignites old feelings for Helen, but local disapproval of the returnee causes problems.
Writer-director Pugh’s picture is effective enough at imbuing a certain whimsical, fairy-tale magic into the downtrodden protagonists’ lives via Sarah Cunningham’s sun-dappled photography and Mandy Cole’s strikingly colourful costume design, but the script is woeful with the depiction of the working-class characters condescending and infantilising. The rendering of Gary and Amy’s characters is particularly reductive and unpleasant. Brealey does her best, but Helen remains too passive a character to really sell Joanne’s attraction to her.
The picture also features a number of handful of musical sequences where the characters sing along to an admittedly choice selection of pop songs, including Lesley Duncan’s lovely version of Elton’s ‘Love Song’ and Renaissance’s glorious ‘Northern Lights’. Their insertion however often feels like an attempt to make up for shortcomings in character development, as well to buff up a flimsy structure.
There is no current release date for ‘Chuck Chuck Baby’
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