Comfort and Joy

Bill Forsyth's Comfort and Joy is full of cherishable moments.

Film Review by Philip Concannon | 29 Feb 2016
Film title: Comfort and Joy
Director: Bill Forsyth
Starring: Bill Paterson, Claire Grogan, Eleanor David, Alex Norton, Patrick Malahide
Release date: 29 Feb
Certificate: PG

Bill Forsyth's Comfort and Joy underwhelmed at the box-office on its release in 1984 and has subsequently been out of circulation for many years, which partly explains why it has never achieved the acclaim and cult status enjoyed by his other early '80s crowdpleasers Gregory's Girl and Local Hero. Another reason, however, might be because this comedy-drama doesn't feel as fully formed as those previous efforts, and it suffers from an underpowered narrative engine. Much of the charm and lightness of touch that defines Forsyth's work is still evident, though.

One of Comfort and Joy's best features is the opportunity it gives Bill Paterson to shine in an all-too-rare leading role. He plays popular radio DJ Alan 'Dicky' Bird, who suffers a crisis when his kleptomaniac wife abruptly leaves him just before Christmas. As he searches for some sense of meaning in life and yearns to take his career in a more challenging and serious direction, Alan stumbles into a turf war between two Italian-run ice cream vendors.

Both the pathos of Alan's crumbling relationship and the goofy comedy of the battle between Mr. Bunny and McCool are right up Forsyth's street, and even if they never quite click together satisfyingly, there are cherishable moments throughout. Paterson nails the persona of the genial but frustrated radio host whose celebrity status seems largely confined to children, the elderly and ice cream salesmen. Forsyth's ear for dialogue, meanwhile, is as finely tuned as ever, and his elegant direction gives the film a real cinematic sheen, with the scenes shot at night being particularly striking.

The Extras

Three engaging 15-20 minute interviews with Forsyth, Paterson and Claire Grogan, with Forsyth and Paterson offering an honest appraisal of the film's virtues and flaws, and insightful recollections of the Glasgow production. As Paterson notes, the film may now be as much of an evocative time capsule for Glasgow residents as The Long Good Friday is for Londoners.

Released on Blu-ray/DVD by StudioCanal – order your copy at StudioCanal's website