Released March 2 (3/5 Stars)
David Bowie isn’t the first artist who springs to mind for a soundtrack to Shakespeare’s Tempest, but Hunky Dory’s Viv, played by Minnie Driver, is no ordinary Drama teacher.
Set in Swansea in the scorching summer of 1976, Hunky Dory follows a group of tentative teens on a journey of self-expression as they rehearse for the school musical. Upcoming actor Aneurin Barnard stars as Davey in a grass roots cast which features a few familiar faces. Fans of valleys sitcom Stella will recognise Owen Teale, Steve Spiers and Aled Pugh; and Kimberley Nixon from Fresh Meat also makes an appearance.
The group of unlikely stage stars find themselves thrust into the midst of a Shakespeare production while they tackle adolescent angst, issues of sexuality unrequited love and family break-ups. Drama teacher Viv struggles to be taken seriously as she challenges authority to engage with the children and put on a contemporary school show.
Director Marc Evans told Radio 4’s Film Programme he wanted the film to have “different DNA” to Glee and High School Musical, so the young actors performed their songs live on set. The soundtrack includes renditions of classics by Bowie, ELO and the Turtles as they’ve never been heard before.
The film itself is enjoyable, albeit slow moving. The humour is more likely to raise a smile or a chuckle than to have the audience in stitches. Minnie Driver is convincing as the teacher with a heart who wants to make a difference, but an awkward peck on the lips with her on-screen pupil undermines this slightly.
Hunky Dory is a light-hearted, off-beat comedy which offers a refreshing alternative to sickly sweet American coming of age musicals. Its portrayal of life growing up in south Wales in the seventies is honest and has a sort of grim optimism which makes it wonderfully Welsh.