Unless a Rom-Com has been written by the king of British romance, Richard Curtis, UK efforts don’t tend to get a lot of exposure, which is a shame because the Glaswegian-set Not Another Happy Ending is one of the most enjoyable films I’ve seen from this genre in a while.
Karen Gillan (Doctor Who) stars as Jane Lockhart, an unpublished writer who falls into the lap of struggling maverick publisher Tom Duval (Stanley Weber), becoming his only successful author. The problem is, when it comes to writing her second novel, she starts suffering from a bad case of writer’s block just before the last chapter. Why? Because she’s just too darn happy to tap into the emotion that made her first novel such a success. Knowing that if she doesn’t sort herself out soon his publishing company will go bust, Tom sets about trying to make her miserable again, in the hope it will cure the block. Naturally, when his tactics work an ill-timed epiphany informs him his feelings for her run deeper than initially intended.
It’s a predictable story, I grant you. I doubt anyone reading this synopsis will have any doubt about the film’s end, but considering the conclusion is a) true of most Rom-Coms and b) what we pay to see, we can let that point slide. What makes Not Another Happy Ending more charming than most Rom-Coms is the fact that it’s relatable, plausible, set in Scotland (which makes a nice change), and the chemistry between the two leads is palpable from the beginning.
Jane and Tom don’t exactly get off on the right foot. He’s rude, grumpy and blunt in his criticism. She gets an odd sense of gratification from her own pain. They don’t get on, and yet they do. In the hands of lesser skilled actors their being destined to come together would have seemed ridiculous. Gillan told Total Film recently that a great on-screen couple comes down to the “chemistry you have with the person. It’s something you can work on. And even if it works from the off you can still definitely get it better!” The effort pays off here, because despite the odd moments of dodgy scripting, their relationship is realistic.
The side characters are engaging in their own ways too. Jane’s boyfriend Willie is a screenwriter who latches onto her the moment she becomes successful. If you’re supposed to want to punch his smug face in every scene he’s in, Henry Ian Cusick succeeded beautifully. And then there’s Jane’s dad, played by Gary Lewis (Billy Elliot) who brings a lot of well needed reality to the piece, especially when Jane keeps talking to her imaginary main character Darsie (played by Amy Manson) in public spaces.
Of course, what’s a rom-com without a randomly included nude scene? They occur a lot in modern romantic comedies, usually scripted as an awkward run-in between the potential lovers. For example, in The Proposal, Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds both strip down for a scene that involves the two colliding their naked bodies together. What was supposed to be funny was actually just cringe-worthy to watch, due to it having no basis in the plot other than as a ‘wouldn’t it be funny’ moment.
To the credit of Not Another Happy Ending though, Karen Gillan getting her kit off was less contrived. Suffering from writer’s block, Jane decides to take her boyfriend’s advice and write in the buff, in the hope it will help free her inhibitions and in turn her mental block. In other words, the perfect set up for Tom to walk in and catch her. Still, its inclusion does appear to be purely for the purpose of titillation, and therefore Gillan’s insistence the experience was actually alright to shoot, is tainted by the disappointment they resorted to that old trick and made her do it in the first place. The film was lovely as it was and didn’t need that addition.
Don’t watch Not Another Happy Ending expecting anything deep and philosophical. That’s not its intended audience. The film is quirky, light-hearted and fun, made so thanks to a script that is quick in wit and an engaging main protagonist. And in the face of a genre which has been getting cruder with every release, it was nice to sit back and be swept away by an idyllic and romantic Glasgow. For once.
Not Another Happy Ending is out on DVD now.