Bill Forsyth is one of those quiet, under-the-radar filmmakers who somehow managed to carve out a career making quirky, underplayed, heartfelt comedies that don’t really stand out in any obvious way, yet somehow manage to assert themselves as unique pieces of art all the same.
Comfort and Joy is his follow-up to critical fave Local Hero; though nowhere near as focused (Local Hero had a universal, political subtext that gave the film focus) it definitely ventures further out into left field with a storyline that twists and turns in confusing, but amusing ways. Forsyth doesn’t dwell too much on motives or the psychology of his characters- instead, he focuses on the quirks every human being has, playing them for warm laughs. In a Forsyth film, even the bad guys aren’t so bad.
Somehow, he starts with a break-up movie and ends up with mobster lampoon- one involving ice cream trucks. All of this revolves around Allan “Dickey” Bird, a morning disc jockey and local Glasgow celeb who, despite his celebrated status as protagonist, isn’t all that likable or interesting as a person. He’s not not likable or interesting, however- a classic Forsyth trait. He’s just enough of an enigma to keep us interested, and the film manages to make his comedic mishaps our own.
Forsyth doesn’t seem to need much out of his films- they feel light flights of fancy, existing mostly to give us a nice evening out in the theater and a gentle reassurance that, though homo sapiens are a wacky species, they’re interesting enough to deserve telling quirky stories of. What makes Forsyth’s work worthwhile is that it’s the flip-side to the dreck that Hallmark and Lifetime Movies dig up- here’s a genuine point of view made by a guy who genuinely loves people. Comfort and Joy is anything but formulaic, and it’s that refreshing embrace of humanity that makes it worthwhile.
4 thoughts on “Comfort and Joy”
this is a great movie. I saw Gregory’s Girl on HBO when I was young, and not only watched it every time it was on and I was home, but I continued to look for anything else from this director. This movie has always been difficult to find for purchase in the US (I got a multi-region player and ordered from the UK myself). But That Sinking Feeling, his first full length movie is truly the difficult film of his oeuvre to find
We will look for That Sinking Feeling and post it here sometime in the future… probably not for a little while since Forsyth already has 2 films represented here, but we’ll get it up here at some point!
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I saw this when it came out, and then again a year ago. All of his movies have a unique charm. That Sinking Feeling is my favorite Forsyth film by a million miles, but Comfort and Joy is a delightful Scottish screwball comedy that is great fun.
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