Scottish Mussel

***

Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Talulah Riley in Scottish Mussel
"For a debut this shows impressive grasp of a variety of locations, even that whole 'children and animals' thing."

Down on his luck, Ritchie becomes aware of a black market for Scottish pearls, and in a series of misadventures a romantic comedy ensues. Written, directed, and co-starring Talulah Riley, Scottish Mussel establishes that Martin Compston has a good line in wry smiles and reasonable comic timing, that Ms Riley is multi-talented, and that Harry Enfield's Scottish accent is god-awful.

A host of recognisable faces grace this debut effort for writer/director Riley, including Rufus Hound's mostly credible synthesis of Sergeants Nicholas Angel and Hamish Macbeth, James Dreyfus as a repressed headmaster, Camille Coduri as an Auntie selling drugs from jail, Enfield as the chip-van wielding Uncle Bill, and Russel Kane raising the stakes in the innuendo game with a turn as a leopard-print pearl-necklace craftsman.

Copy picture

There's also Paulo Nutini among the usual Scottish suspects on the soundtrack, but there are allusions to modern Scotland too, from vegan tzatziki to the suggestion that The Saracen Head serves craft ale (specifically Black Isle Organic's 'Yellowhammer', which is indeed a worthy tipple), but a lot of this is shortbread tin establishing shot - gorgeous Scottish landscapes, the genuine plight of the Scottish freshwater pearl mussel somewhat obfuscated by dodgy geezers and pink wetsuits and some fast and loose with both hydrodynamics and the efficiency of the Caledonian motorway network.

There are wee details that entertain, a case of mistaken identity brought about by the ubiquity of white Transit vans is spot on, as is a glass-bottomed bucket, but they're tempered by a mixed bag of jokes and comic situations that doesn't so much cover the spectrum as veer wildly from wry arithmetic to neoprene-obfuscated priapism, whatever the straw-lined stables equivalent of bed-head is to repeatedly calling an otter a beaver. There are also some real bits of commitment - that really seems to be the cast in Scottish watercourses, and rate of flow aside the temperature alone would be reason to do it in something other than a fetching red bikini.

Beyond minor roles for a slew of recognisable comedians and comic actors, Ritchie's posse includes Joe "Inbetweeners" Thomas as the insatiably peckish Danny, and Paul Brannigan (Sunshine On Leith/Under The Skin) as (very) nice but (very) dim Fraser. As Beth, an ecological crusader for the eponymous molluscs, Riley is supported by yurt-dwelling uber new-man Ethan (Morgan Watkins), and Fiona (Mariana Buckley) who has a strong line in both fashion and liquor.

The police response to automatic weaponry in the Highlands is far more sedate than one would expect, but that's part and parcel - this is the kind of gentle comedy where malintent is turned around, where there's a strong likelihood that background characters get a happy ending too, and in another era there'd be a montage of still photographs and text explaining what happened next to all involved.

As it stands we're given a few glimpses, but like a lot of the jokes that's minor pay-off for real effort in set-up. It's no small challenge to make a film, and for a debut this shows impressive grasp of a variety of locations, even that whole 'children and animals' thing. Scottish Mussel has enough minor irritations that accrete to form something other than a gem. It's never beyond the pale, there are some moments where the tone seems more risque than the gentler tone it adopts elsewhere, but it's got wit, and wit enough to play to the strengths of its cast. With famous faces and dodgy accents, it may be to wildlife crime in Scotland as Braveheart was to Wallace's campaign, but while it's unlikely to inspire any monuments it's not without its charms. The laughs it raises are more amuse-bouche than hearty but that's sufficient for many appetites.

Reviewed on: 26 Jun 2015
Share this with others on...
A Glaswegian chancer who moonlights as an illegal pearl fisher in the Highland streams falls for a beautiful English conservationist.
Amazon link

Festivals:

EIFF 2015

Search database: