Film review: Walking on Sunshine (2014)

Directed by Max Giwa, Dania Pasquini.
Starring Annabel Scholey, Hannah Arterton, Katy Brand, Greg Wise, Leona Lewis, and Danny Kirrane.



Maddie (Annabel Scholey) and Taylor (Hannah Arterton) are sisters, but they are nothing alike; vivacious and bright Maddie is in love with love, finding herself in the arms of this man and the other, while Taylor is reserved and timid, placing her academic life above romance. After a bad breakup, Maddie follows Taylor’s advice and goes to a small coastal village in Italy, where Taylor had once found romance, in order to find herself. When Taylor arrives a few weeks later, her sister drops a bomb: she’s getting married! Sure, she’s only known the guy for five weeks, but when you know, you know, right? Little does Maddie know that her beau, Raf (Giulio Berruti), is her little sister’s former holiday romance, maybe even the love of her life.

Walking on Sunshine screencap

Set against the beautiful backdrop of summertime on the beach, Walking on Sunshine is a story about finding oneself, and finding love. Maddie is full of life and passion; despite the warnings of her sister Taylor and her friend Lil (Katy Brand), the professional erotic novel writer, she embraces the idea of marriage to a gorgeous and caring Italian man who is everything her ex Doug (Greg Wise) isn’t, probably for that reason alone. In the two days until the wedding, Taylor tries to reconcile herself with the idea of seeing her sister marry the only man she ever had feelings for. She’s supported by the friends she’d made on her holiday who have hung around: Elena (Leona Lewis, arguably here to fill the vocal talent quota), her boyfriend  Enrico (Giulio Corso), and Mikey (Danny Kirrane).

The question of will-they-won’t-they stretches itself to the max as the viewer begins to question whether Taylor should speak up and take a chance with her former summer love, or let him marry her sister who finally seems happy. The relationship between the two sisters is sweet and it is implied that their parents are gone, leaving just the two of them to care for each other. Despite the romantic triangle situation, the handsome Italian man never comes between the two English belles, which is refreshing like a cool beach breeze. Meanwhile, Elena and Enrico’s long-term engagement that sprung out of a holiday romance is absolutely endearing, as are Mikey’s attempts to seduce the worldly Lil who “wouldn’t order the fish and chips in Italy”. Doug is the only character who isn’t wholly pleasant, and his problematic relationship with Maddie makes an appearance and a statement that clashes vividly with the other partnerships depicted in the film. The point is made amid haphazard characterisation, but at least it’s there, in some form.

The music will hit that nostalgia spot, with famous songs like Wake Me Up Before You Go Go, It Must Have Been Love, Eternal Flame, and Girls Just Wanna Have Fun among others. The title finally makes sense when Taylor follows her friends to town where there is a tomato festival a la Tomatina in Buñol, Spain, and all the main characters (minus Maddie and Doug, who are singing a little duet of their own) spend the afternoon throwing tomatoes at each other while singing the timeless Katrina & the Waves hit. Admittedly, not all in the cast have a great vocal range; in fact, the ladies carry the whole film on their shoulders while the men struggle to keep up. That being said, this movie should not be viewed with extremely high expectations: it is a feel-good musical with some romantic tension and a lot of fun 80s songs, hen parties and stag nights in stunningly accurate 80s outfits, and scenes in the markets and the town square where the leads and the dancing passers-by are in absolute sync.

Like the posters say with their on-the-nose marketing, ‘if you liked Mamma Mia, you will love this’.

Basically, yeah.

Flickering Myth Rating – Film ★ ★ / Movie ★ ★ ★

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