sun 23/06/2024

Scottish Mussel | reviews, news & interviews

Scottish Mussel

Scottish Mussel

Inept, patronising Highland romcom from debut writer/director Talulah Riley

Mismatched couple: writer/director/star Talulah Riley with co-lead Martin Compston

A single, lonely star might seem harsh for what is first-time director (and writer, and lead) Talulah Riley’s woeful debut feature. And it’s true that, if nothing else, the St Trinian’s franchise star packs a lot into her Scottish Mussel.

Like an unconvincing storyline bringing together jokey, blokey Glasgow petty criminals, Highland hippy eco-warriors and an unlikely couple of mismatched lovers. And a cast of dozens, including fleeting cameos (usually gratuitous) from Harry Enfield, James Dreyfus, Russell Kane, Rufus Hound and more. And, of course, a trip back in time to the Scotland of Highland flings, bagpipes blaring from car stereos, and what must be the most unconvincing collection of Caledonian accents heard on screen in many years.

What an actor like Compston is doing in a film like this is a bit of a mystery

In fact, Riley packs in so much that her film seems to break down about halfway through, unsure of where to go next, having launched so many irrelevant plotlines that it has no idea how to work them all out. When it does grind back into action, it’s through unexplained interventions and sudden volte faces – and by the inexplicable, off-screen disaster that kicks off the movie’s final act, it’s hard to muster the enthusiasm to continue caring.

Which is a shame, because there’s undoubted potential in Riley’s unconventional subject matter – rare Scottish river mussels, and their pearls getting poached by opportunist gangsters. She plays Beth, an English environmentalist somewhat at sea in a kooky Highland conservation centre, fending off machine gun-wielding Ukrainians intent on looting the priceless booty from the region’s streams. When Govan chancer Richie (Martin Compston) is mistakenly stopped as a mollusc thief, he spots an opportunity to earn a few easy quid of his own, before his sense of respect for the environment miraculously starts to kick in – alongside his far more signposted lust for Beth.

What an actor like Compston (pictured below, with Paul Brannigan and Joe Thomas) is doing in a film like Scottish Mussel is a bit of a mystery. It might be overstating things to say he’s the sole reason to contemplate seeing the film (fine though he is, it would take more than that). But at least Compston actually seems to be taking things seriously, and he expresses more thought and emotion in a single glance than his co-lead Riley can muster across the movie’s whole 90 minutes, despite snatching any opportunity to strip down to her skimpy bikini.

Scottish MusselPaul Brannigan is wasted as Richie’s village-idiot sidekick Fraser, resolutely unamusing in a shocking pink diving suit, and The InbetweenersJoe Thomas barely registers as their underwritten and lightweight mate Danny. More memorable is Marianna Palka as Beth’s dippy transatlantic colleague Fiona, although Morgan Watkins never looks entirely sure of his role in the whole sorry enterprise – nor of which particular American accent he’s meant to be mimicking – as US he-man Ethan.

What Riley seems to be aiming for is a Pride- or even Brassed Off-style feelgood UK romcom-with-a-message. But with its broad, scattergun humour, lazy characterisation and inept plot and dialogue (not to mention its patronising, metropolitan view of "wild" Scotland), Scottish Mussel should have stayed firmly locked in its shell.

Overleaf: watch the trailer to Scottish Mussel

Compston expresses more thought and emotion in a single glance than his co-lead Riley can muster across the movie’s whole 90 minutes


Editor Rating: 
Average: 1 (1 vote)

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Just watched this movie with friends on New Year's Eve .its a good heartwarming family movie which, unlike the review above, doesn't take itself too seriously and provides excellent entertainment. We look forward to seeing more work from Talulah .

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