Peter Capaldi writes and stars in this road-trip movie that gives a depressing insight into the England and Scotland of the early 1990’s.

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The film begins with a depressing voiceover from main character Gavin (Capaldi) explaining how his Italian grandfather arrived in Scotland by mistake. This anecdote kinds of sums up the film which at its heart is about lack of direction and having no idea what the hell you’re doing.

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We then discover Gavin to be living in London trying to make it as a Children’s book illustrator and constantly getting rejected; but a visit from his Uncle Sal and the gift of ’30 quid’ causes Gavin to drive to Scotland in the hope of being written into his ill fathers will.

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As he heads off in his beat up old car the film becomes a typical ‘got-to-get-home’ road movie, but without the typical comedy that comes with the genre. As he travels he gains companionship of a shifty lady and they encounter car breakdowns, bed and breakfasts and buses in their journey to Glasgow. These things do lead to comic situations but it is a much more dry, sarcastic sort of humour rather than reaction or physical comedy.

A lot of the films enjoyment comes from the relationship between the two lead characters and their questionable morals; whilst neither of them are exactly criminals they come close with their actions and are far from saintly. In fact Capaldi’s only picks up the woman because she knows how to fix his car in a film stuffed with ulterior motives.

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Visual foreshadowing occurs throughout so that the audience almost always knows what is coming next. This works well at times as it adds tension to the scene and helps make some bland scenes interesting but at other times it takes away the element of surprise as we already know what’s about to happen.

A snapshot of the early 90’s is probably the easiest way to describe Soft Top Hard Shoulder as it gives us a glimpse of depressing circumstances… no character in the film is particularly happy with their lives (apart from the rich Uncle Sal) and they all seem to be running away from their problems. And to make it even more depressing you’re forced to listen to same Chris Rea song three times.

A film worth watching it is far from game-changing but gives an interesting portrayal of life with a solid script and decent performance from Peter Capaldi.

7/10