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Comfort and Joy (1984)


Main image of Comfort and Joy (1984)
DirectorBill Forsyth
Production CompanyLake Film Productions
 Thorn EMI Screen Entertainment
 Scottish TV
ProducersDavina Belling
 Clive Parsons
ScriptBill Forsyth
PhotographyChris Menges
MusicMark Knopfler

Cast: Bill Paterson (Alan "Dicky" Bird); Eleanor David (Maddy); Clare Grogan (Charlotte); Alex Norton (Trevor); Patrick Malahide (Colin)

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After his girlfriend walks out on him, a Glasgow DJ tries to develop other interests. But his stint at investigative journalism blows the lid on corruption in the local ice-cream business, and he finds himself at the centre of a full-scale war

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Following the critical and commercial success of Local Hero (1983), Bill Forsyth had little difficulty in getting a new film off the ground - though this would sadly be the last time in his career that there would be such a brief gap between features.

Comfort and Joy (1984) marks a watershed in several respects: despite the title and plenty of Forsyth's trademark quirky observations, it's ultimately a bleak, pessimistic film that was disconcerting at the time - but in retrospect it can now be seen to clearly foreshadow his later work.

Like Gregory in Gregory's Girl (1980) and Mac in Local Hero, Alan 'Dicky' Bird (Bill Paterson) is trying to come to terms with a dramatic change in his life by adopting a fresh outlook, but the crucial difference here is that for all the appearance of success (even securing a financial stake in the new ice-cream fritters venture), at the end he is still left alone in a largely deserted radio station on Christmas Day trying to whip up a party atmosphere - presumably aimed at others in his situation.

Though there's plenty of verbal and visual humour (a running gag sees Alan regularly wiping white substances - bird droppings, snow, ice cream - off his car roof), Alan himself barely seems to notice: he sleepwalks through his radio show and his inane jingles like the professional he clearly is, but his heart is still with the departed Maddy (Eleanor David) - his chasing of Charlotte (C.P. Grogan) is so half-hearted that he may well just be going through the motions as a matter of course.

And much the same is true of his dealings with Messrs Bunny (Alex Norton) and McCool (Roberto Bernardi) - he ultimately solves their little local difficulty not so much through a sense of altruism but because it's become too annoying to ignore, especially when his car is repeatedly damaged as a side-effect. While the ice-cream war that drives the main plot motor initially seems like a typically Forsythian invention, it is in fact based on real-life incidents.

Michael Brooke

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Video Clips
1. Maddy's departure (2:38)
2. Ice-cream hijack (3:07)
3. With the McCools (3:38)
Production stills
Forsyth, Bill (1946-)
Menges, Chris (1940-)