Where You’re Meant to BeCultureCinemaMovie reviews
Across the Highlands of Scotland and through its lively cities, singer Aidan Moffat diverges from his punk-rock past in favour of the rich catalogue of Scottish folk songs. In tiny ferryboats and half-empty church halls he sings of drunkenness and regret in his classic Glaswegian brogue. Yet his updated lyrics wash away the cultural significance of the songs and their champion, Sheila Stewart, has something to say.
This is a decidedly uncool rock documentary, and it’s proud of it. The bedraggled Moffat in unglamorous surroundings performs to often impassive spectators, if any at all. His crude lyrics clearly clash with the sensibilities of older audience members and, in one of the more awkward scenes, an elderly woman grimaces at a particularly explicit line. But instead of feeling misjudged, his pure enthusiasm for the music of Scotland makes Moffat a surprisingly endearing subject.
The heart of the film lies in the relationship between the legendary folk singer Sheila Stewart and the younger rocker-turned-folk singer Moffat. Stewart resents him changing the lyrics of traditional songs that her clan have sung for generations, but Moffat seeks to make the songs more relevant in the 21st century. In the end, the compromise reached is a testament to the talent of Stewart and the songs she has sung all her life.
However, it is an uphill battle to sympathise with the occasionally unlikeable Moffat. His narration, which is seldom necessary, is addressed to a mysterious “you”. The identity of the recipient remains unknown for much of the film, but rather than creating suspense it fosters frustration and confusion.
It is a shame that despite the intriguing subject matter Where You’re Meant to Be constantly diverges from it: a confusing interlude in Loch Ness and the question of the eponymous monster’s existence distracts from the relationship between Stewart and Moffat, the impetus of the story.
However, by the end, it is hard not to love the unconventional ballads of a lesser-known nation and Moffat’s heartfelt attempt to reinvigorate the fading traditions of the country he loves.
Where You’re Meant to Be is released nationwide on 17th June 2016.
Watch the trailer for Where You’re Meant to Be here: