SXSW FILM 2012
By Caitlyn Collins | March 19, 2012
Director: Marc Evans
Writer: Laurence Coriat
Starring: Minnie Driver, Aneurin Barnard, Danielle Branch, Robert Pugh, Haydn Gwynne, Steve Speirs
Hunky Dory, directed by Marc Evans, is rather goofily titled. While the phrase is actually used once in the film, things are far from okay in this story. Vivienne (Minnie Driver) is a progressive high school drama teacher who comes back to her small, Welsh hometown during the summer of 1976. She smokes, drinks, uses foul language, and listens to rock-n-roll. In truth, she seems like she might fit in more with her pupils than with the Headmaster (Robert Pugh) and fellow teachers, Mrs. Valentine (Haydn Gwynne) and Mr. Cafferty (Steve Speirs), both of whom can’t stand her.
In order to engage her students in the theatre, Vivienne asks all of her students to name a few of their favorite bands and musicians, among them – David Bowie, The Rolling Stones, Jimi Hendrix. This opening scene, where Vivienne is trying to capture the attention of her students, also alludes to the musical aspect of this film. Their chosen play, Shakespeare’s The Tempest, is a musical production. The opening scene also gives the impression that you are being thrown right into the story after it’s already begun with little knowledge of what exactly is taking place. The story line slowly begins to unfold, but in a clunky manner.
Hunky Dory touches upon typical teenage themes such as love, ambition, self-discovery, familial relationships, etc. But few of the characters, especially the students, seem to really develop, and as a result there is little connection to them. Davey (Aneurin Barnard) is perhaps the exception to this. He’s not only the male lead of Hunky Dory, but also the lead in The Tempest. Through him we see the most teenage angst, but also get a better idea of who Vivienne is as a person and teacher through her inappropriate encounters with Davey (it’s not what you think). The random bursts into song do seem to coincide with the plot, but I was more impressed with the musicians than with the singers for the most part.
Despite all this, the characters did begin to grow on me as I watched the film, I just didn’t feel Hunky Dory.