British feel-good drama from the producer of Billy Elliot. Set in the summer of 1976, Minnie Driver stars as an idealistic drama teacher who tries to put on the high school’s end-of-year show: a sci-fi rock opera version of The Tempest. Now playing nationwide.
Basking in the nostalgic glow of the ‘70s with a busy ensemble of hormonal high schoolers, Marc Evans’ Hunky Dory seeks to be some sort of Welsh Glee-influenced answer to Dazed and Confused. Neither as richly evocative in atmosphere nor memorably sketched in character as Linklater’s note-perfect masterpiece, it’s pleasant, forgettably feelgood and unabashedly hackneyed, doing everything you expect it to - nothing more, nothing less.
Despite giving a fine, warm-hearted performance, Minnie Driver’s Vivienne - attempting to stage a rock opera of Shakespeare’s The Tempest - is the same Dead Poets/Inspirational Teacher-type role we’ve seen a thousand times before, the liberal loose cannon driven to inspire the kids while facing opposition from a school of disapproving conversatives.
The students are a similarly clichéd bunch: Davey (Aneurin Barnard), the production’s lead has been jilted by crush Stella (Danielle Branch); Evan (Tom Harries) is grappling with the truth about his sexuality; Kenny (Darren Evans) is the angsty misfit who’s on the way to becoming a racist skinhead etc. The film tries too hard to belabour their importance in the story, yet their respective problems are largely inconsequential given how neatly everything is resolved in the predictably exultant finale.
It’s hard not to be moved by the spirited musical covers of Bowie, Nick Drake, ELO and the like, and Robert Pugh provides amusing support as the headmaster coyly relishing his chance to play the role of Prospero. But Hunky Dory lacks freshness, getting by simply with a whole lot of sun-glazed sentimentality and little ambition.