As I have mentioned before, it was more than a decade ago that I joined two others in a lengthy thread on Facebook for our 50 Favorite Movies. I told myself at the time that I was going to watch all of the movies the others had chosen that I had missed. With Comfort and Joy, I have finally fulfilled my promise to Phil Dellio. (Phil had Comfort and Joy at #30.)
Comfort and Joy is the third Bill Forsyth movie I've seen, after Housekeeping and Local Hero, both of which I liked. All three films are of a piece ... Forsyth has a recognizable feel. As Steve Fore said in a comment here re: Local Hero, "Fundamentally, Forsyth's films are fables, almost a kind of Scottish magical realism. They portray a world that is quite recognizable, but full of tiny wonders, and humanist in the best sense."
The word that comes to my mind is whimsical, but "Scottish magical realism" is a better description. All of the movies I've seen had something to get my attention. Local Hero has Burt Lancaster, and Housekeeping was based on a novel I liked. The only marker for Comfort and Joy was that Phil loved it, and that's enough ... Phil isn't Burt Lancaster, but he did have Sweet Smell of Success at #5 on his list. (I countered with From Here to Eternity at #37.) The cast is mostly unknown to me ... Clare Grogan, lead singer for the band Altered Images, has a big part. Bill Paterson is the lead, playing a local morning DJ named Alan "Dickie" Bird, and he has had a long and highly-regarded career. I've seen him in a few things without actually remembering them (he had the lead in the TV series version of Traffik). I know him best as Fleabag's father:
Amazingly, the plot turns on a bit of whimsy that turns out to be based on real life: the Glasgow Ice Cream Wars. The instigation for the plot comes when Alan's longtime girlfriend leaves him, and while the plot takes some fanciful turns, the humanism Steve Fore mentioned is ever-present. Alan is not a sad sack, he's sad, which isn't the same thing. The one place where Forsyth's essential kindness escapes him is with the girlfriend, who would be called a bitch except she is too lackadaisical to work up that level of meanness.
I'll let Phil have the last word:
Three reasons I love this film so much: 1) lots of driving scenes, many of them at night (all the drivers are sitting on the wrong side of the car, but that’s okay); 2) Claire Grogan from the band Altered Images; 3) jokes that leave me smiling for days--“Give us an autograph, Dickie.” My favourite in the entire film has to do with Mr. Softy.