Review: Hunky Dory

I think I approve of the idea of starting a film with a brainstorming session. Minnie Driver is the progressive new drama teacher at a South Wales school, getting students in the first class to drum up a list of artists they admire.

And the list they produce — Bowie, Zeppelin, Floyd, Ramones — serves both as a playlist for the movie and an beautifully succinct way for establishing the period setting, which is the long hot summer of 1976.

Driver is the archetypal trendy, down-with-the-kids teacher, the one who wants to inspire them to look beyond their bleak reality.

Her vehicle for self-expression is a 'Shakespearean concept rock opera,' a version of The Tempest with music from the period.

If the meeting of Caliban and the music of the Electric Light Orchestra sounds like an awful affair than that's deliberate; this is a film that stubbornly avoids the easy route, to dredge up all the old clich�s.

The script supplies all the standard dramatic conflicts you'd expect of a high school musical: the closed-minded staff who want her to fail, the boy coming to terms with his homosexuality, the broken hearts, the first kisses, the troubled kid who has talent but doesn't want to do something unmanly.

Glee though is in short supply in South Wales and having laid them all out, the film largely leaves them lying there.

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Director Marc Evans has had a bold and honourable career but, apart from the gut-wrenching horror film My Little Eye, has largely failed to make much impact. He clearly has a great deal of taste, skill and ambition; perhaps if he had a bit less he might have gotten a bit further.

It has a gentle humanity that's very appealing. Its desire to uplift you without leaving you feeling cheap and used is admirable but it never quite grabs you and makes you feel it.

I liked Hunky Dory but this is a film that needs to be loved.


Director: Marc Evans

Starring: Minnie Driver, Aneurin Barnard, George MacKay, Robert Pugh and Danielle Branch

Length: 110 mins