This brilliant film from Wales is set in the long hot summer of 1976, when we had it like the Mediterranean every day for months (except in Ireland where it pelted down and I had to go for a `holiday'). We meet Vivienne May (Minnie Driver) who has returned from a failed career in London to become a teacher at a not so progressive South Wales school. She is one of those teachers who feel you should get more from education than just a tick box mentality to passing exams. And as such she wants to encourage the kids to `express' themselves.
In order to help in this process, she intends to put on the school musical, and she chooses Shakespeare's `The Tempest', but with up to date and `with it' music such as Bowie, Roxy, Music and ELO. I was intrigued straight away especially with a very school like version of `Life on Mars' with a xylophone and jars filled with differing amounts of water - brilliant. Well her efforts are received with mild disfavour to outright hostility. The rugby coach says acting is effeminate and won't let his `boys' take part, the splendid Hayden Gwynn as Mrs Valentine, is a sublime cow in her efforts to undermine Vivienne, who seems to let herself down through being caught at being pally with the kids, smoking, drinking, swearing and getting stoned.
The kids themselves are all played brilliantly especially the lad who plays the only gay in the village/ school. Then there is Davy who has a crush for Miss and more mixed hormones than most of his age, but he can fair belt out a tune. The arrangements and treatments of the songs are all at the high end of excellent especially a fairly obscure Roxy number. They are also rubbish at turning up for dress rehearsal and more akin to bunking off down the Lido than learning their lines. Well as the heat rises, so do the hormones, jealousies and the accusations which will all lead to an inevitable clash, albeit with a load of laughs along the way.
To say I enjoyed this is an understatement akin to saying Stalin might have been a bit naughty, it is just great, funny, human, and entertaining and it's Welsh. This is the best Welsh film since `Twin Town' and I have seen a fair few. Minnie Driver is not only great she is totally lovable and not any of the supporting cast puts in a bad performance. Special mention to the headmaster played by Robert Pugh (`Master and Commander' and `Robin Hood'), he plays the bumbling but kind hearted teacher in a virtuoso performance of under statedness. If you loved the seventies, you will love this, if you love musicals then look no further and if you want to see some home grown life affirming cinema then, with this you have struck gold.