The Hot 100 2014: The Year in Scottish Film

2014 in Scottish film

Under the Skin

Filmmaker and critic Eddie Harrison reflects on some ups and downs for Scottish cinema

If 2014 was billed as Scotland’s decisive moment in politics, it was a year of ducking the big questions in terms of cinema. Scottish film production still depends on public subsidy, and with uncertainty about funding, 2014 saw little progress on any front.

The rocky reception given to director Jonathan Glazer when he screened Under the Skin (pictured) at Glasgow Film Festival reflected the uncertainty of purpose. Critically lauded, Glazer’s film offered an ugly, alienated depiction of Scotland, provoking angry accusations of cultural tourism.

In recent years, Scotland has been a backdrop for fantasies like World War Z and Cloud Atlas, but the lack of Scottish stories has become a matter of frustration. The positive reception for US TV production Outlander – filmed in Scotland but with a UK broadcast date yet to be announced – offered some promise; elsewhere, Scottish director David Mackenzie regained his directing mojo with Starred Up, but did so in Belfast. These projects should be considered in the context of a long-running question: should Scotland have a film studio?

With Creative Scotland funding resulting in scraps of activity, it’s hard to argue that there’s enough work here to sustain a studio; the failure of the Valleywood project in Wales is a warning of what hubris can lead to. But 2014’s ‘if you build it, they will come’ argument only polarised factions in disagreement about where a studio should be placed.

In terms of the Made in Scotland output on screens, What We Did on Our Holiday featured several generations of Scottish talent, but the comedy said little of note; Stuart Murdoch’s long-delayed release of God Help the Girl had ambitions beyond its Kickstarter-funded budget, but at least paid its own way. And – together with the King Creosote-penned soundtrack – Virginia Heath’s From Scotland with Love told the touching story of the country’s past through archive footage, just as the nation considered its future.

Yet our ongoing ‘dwam’ may present credibility issues for local festivals and training schemes as well; if Scotland is ever going to be a filmmaking player, we need to form a coherent strategy fast or resign ourselves to bit-part status.

Glasgow Film Festival

Having launched in 2005, the Glasgow Film Festival has grown and grown: during that debut year, 6000 cinephiles passed through the doors, while 42,000 attended in 2016. Of course there are top-notch premieres, retrospectives and special guests (past visitors have included Richard Gere, Joss Whedon and Alan Rickman) but…

God Help the Girl

  • 3 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 51min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Stuart Murdoch
  • Written by: Stuart Murdoch
  • Cast: Olly Alexander, Hannah Murray, Pierre Boulanger
  • UK release: 22 August 2014

Eve (Browning), battling her way back from depression and chronic anorexia, starts to write songs as a way of dealing with her feelings. The first film written and directed by Belle and Sebastian's Murdoch is a twee, whimsical love letter to Glasgow which, luckily, has charm and sincerity on its side.

Under the Skin

  • 5 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 48min
  • 15
  • Directed by: Jonathan Glazer
  • Written by: Michel Faber (novel), Walter Campbell (screenplay)
  • Cast: Scarlett Johansson, Paul Brannigan, Robert J. Goodwin
  • UK release: 14 March 2014

An alien in human form (Johansson) picks up unwary travellers in Scotland. Glazer's adaptation of Michel Faber's novel is a genuinely unique, full-on sensory experience that leaves you dazed, disturbed and full of questions, aided no end by Johansson's believable 'otherness' and her character's infectious fascination with…

Starred Up

  • 4 stars
  • 2013
  • UK
  • 1h 46min
  • 18
  • Directed by: David Mackenzie
  • Written by: Jonathan Asser
  • Cast: Jack O'Connell, Ben Mendelsohn, Rupert Friend
  • UK release: 21 March 2014

Eric (O'Connell) is a 19 year old offender who's been moved to an adult facility because of his violent behaviour, but then he meets hardened criminal Neville (Mendelsohn), who happens to be his father. Gut-wrenching and insightful, with excellent performances and an abrasive but sensitive script peppered with welcome…

What We Did on Our Holiday

  • 4 stars
  • 2014
  • UK
  • 1h 35min
  • 12A
  • Directed by: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
  • Written by: Andy Hamilton, Guy Jenkin
  • Cast: Rosamund Pike, David Tennant, Billy Connolly, Celia Imrie, Ben Miller, Emilia Jones, Annette Crosbie
  • UK release: 26 September 2014

Doug (Tennant) and Abi (Pike) have separated, but when they go north for the birthday of Doug's father (Connolly), they instruct their kids (Jones, Smalldridge and Turnbull) to keep quiet about the separation. Charming and hilarious: Tennant and Pike are excellent, and despite the kids' scene-stealing improvisation it…

From Scotland with Love

  • 2014
  • UK
  • 1h 16min
  • U
  • Directed by: Virginia Heath
  • UK release: 19 July 2014

A film journey into Scotland's past exploring love, loss, resistance, migration, work and play. Set to music by King Creosote.

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