This story takes place in a fictional town called Glasgow - any similarity between this and an actual town called Glasgow is purely coincidental - where we find Ronnie (Robert Buchanan) deep in discussion one dreich morning in the park. He's having a conversation with a statue, one-sided certainly, but he manages to get the upper hand when he points out that while the statue may have his lofty acheivements, he has them too - does the monument have two O-Levels? Don't think so. After being moved on by an irate tramp, Ronnie makes up his mind to do something - something daring...
That Sinking Feeling was Scottish auteur Bill Forsyth's first film, made with the Glasgow Youth Theatre which he had been working with, and while it may not have been as polished as his later work, his warm, idiosyncratic sensibility was evidently fully formed. There were no star names here, and much of the acting could be described as amateurish, but with Forsyth's guidance and a clever, amusing script, the cast succeeded where other low budget efforts notably failed. Not much more than a student film at feature length, this was more entertaining than many movies with many times its paltry budget.
Ronnie's plan is to stage a heist, and recruits his friends who are unemployed too, mostly, to assist him. Being the mastermind, in other films he might be expected to be some kind of criminal schemer, or at least display some level of ingenuity, but Ronnie is pretty much a dreamer so even as you enjoy his plotting you can't see it working out too well. Yet Forsyth likes these people he's depicting, and you feel he didn't want to let them down just as he didn't want to let down his cast and crew, so nothing particularly dire happens to them and indeed they reach some degree of achievement, just like Ronnie promises to the statue at the beginning of the film.
Not that you hold out much hope for their future careers in the field of illegality, but just as The Lavender Hill Mob before them were an unlikely bunch, this gang are shown to be goodnatured and successful despite themselves. There are allusions to the poverty that was hitting the region at the time, and the dejection that went with it especially with the knowledge that it was not going to get any better soon with Margaret Thatcher the new Prime Minister, so there are jokes about suicide and the locations are less than glamorous. However, the spirit of the Scottish citizens is shown to be an optimistic one, and Forsyth kept it light to emphasise the gags and character comedy over the more depressing aspects.
The heist itself takes a fair bit of setting up, and involves a bakery delivery van which the gang comandeer to carry the sinks from the local factory they are stealing from. Mind you, there are so many members of the gang that their dreams of becoming millionaires on the proceeds are farcically unrealistic considering they'll only get about four sinks each, but that's part of the idealistic charm. The crime brings out unexpected factors in their personalities, so for example Vic grows to love the idea of disguising himself as a woman, much to his girlfriend's dismay, and Bobby's experiments in a knockout drug for the van driver transform him into a "mad scientist", claiming to have created suspended animation. Along with the bigger laughs there are little details worth watching out for, making That Sinking Feeling worth revisiting as an instance of resourcefulness and genuine accomplishment that remains cheering. Music by Colin Tully.
Scottish writer and director whose gloomily whimsical comedies brought him worldwide recognition. Starting as an industrial filmmaker, he made the no-budget That Sinking Feeling which got him noticed enough to make the classic Gregory's Girl. This led to the similarly well-crafted and heartwarming Local Hero, and the less successful but no less enjoyable Comfort and Joy. Forsyth moved to America for his next films, quirky drama Housekeeping, crime comedy Breaking In, and ambitious but misguided Being Human, then finally returned to Scotland, and his first big success, with ill-received sequel Gregory's Two Girls. He has now retired from directing to concentrate on writing.