'Day of the Flowers'

A sweet, sun-bleached but slightly dim fusion of family melodrama, romantic comedy and picture-postcard travelogue, the Havana-set "Day of the Flowers" aims to dance away its script troubles to the infectious rumba rhythms of its soundtrack.

A sweet, sun-bleached but slightly dim fusion of family melodrama, romantic comedy and picture-postcard travelogue, the Havana-set “Day of the Flowers” aims to dance away its script troubles to the infectious rumba rhythms of its soundtrack. This programmatic tale of squabbling Glaswegian sisters traveling to Cuba to lay their father’s ashes to rest just about gets away with it, until a third-act collapse leaves logic flapping in the summer breeze. Agreeable pic is too undemanding for extended fest travel, though the charming presence of international ballet star Carlos Acosta as a love interest could lend it theatrical appeal beyond Blighty.

Although TV scribe Eirene Houston’s first feature script has the cheerful weightlessness of successful chick-lit, she deserves credit for at least fleetingly engaging with some political complexities as her outsiders’ romantic perceptions of Cuban revolutionary spirit are repeatedly thwarted by more earthbound present-day realities. That the film still comes over as a fish-out-of-water fantasy, however, may have something to do with the family-entertainment background of director John Roberts, whose last bigscreen venture was 1998′s talking-parrot pic “Paulie.”

In Glasgow, socially conscious do-gooder Rosa (Eva Birthistle) takes to the streets for her latest worthy protest. She’s interrupted by her younger sister, Ailie (Charity Wakefield) — a pretty, flirtatious shopaholic, utterly indifferent to Rosa’s causes — who delivers the news that their estranged father has died. Once an idealistic socialist who aided Cuban revolutionaries in the 1970s, Dad long ago split from the girls’ hippie-ish mother and joined the upper crust. But when their stepmother (Phyllis Logan) announces plans to convert his remains into a golfing trophy, Rosa balks and steals the ashes.

Cue a madcap trip to Cuba, to Rosa’s mind still her dad’s rightful resting place, with a skeptical Ailie and, less explicably, Rosa’s dorky, kilt-clad best friend Conway (Bryan Dick) in tow. Mildly diverting havoc ensues as the trio winds up off-course, suspicious policemen confiscate the ashes, and Rosa is pursued by two dishy locals: obvious charlatan Ernesto (Christopher Simpson) and kindly dance instructor Tomas (Acosta). Already sufficiently busy, the narrative splits at the seams when heated; not entirely consistent revelations about the girls’ family history come to the fore, sending both credibility and chronology askew.

Through all this, Birthistle and Wakefield make perky enough company, though it might have been preferable to cast actual Scots in the leads; the actresses, Irish and English respectively, both have a rather mannered take on the tricky Glaswegian accent that eventually grates. More relaxed and warmly charismatic is Acosta, here taking his first feature-length acting assignment. His hoofing skills, sadly, are only briefly glimpsed.

Tech contributions are thoroughly professional, with lenser Vernon Layton making the most of the lush Cuban locations. As, indeed, does the film: It’s a mercy Rosa’s dad didn’t spend his salad days in outer Glasgow.

Day of the Flowers

U.K.

Production

A Rogue Elephant Pictures presentation of a Roberts-Rae production. (International sales: Rogue Elephant, London.) Produced by Jonathan Rae. Executive producer, John Roberts. Directed by John Roberts. Screenplay, Eirene Houston.

Crew

Camera (color, widescreen), Vernon Layton; editors, David Freeman, John Wilson; music, Stephen Warbeck; music supervisors, Liz Schrek, Gary Welch; production designer, Andrew Sanders; art director, Aramis Balebona Recio; costume designer, Leonie Hartard; sound (Dolby Digital), Martin Beresford; supervising sound editor, Sven Taits; re-recording mixers, Matthew Gough, Taits; visual effects supervisor, Liam Tully; associate producer, Guy Walker; assistant director, David Martinez; second unit camera, Sam Garwood; casting, Celestia Fox. Reviewed at Edinburgh Film Festival (competing), April 23, 2012. Running time: 102 MIN.

With

Eva Birthistle, Charity Wakefield, Carlos Acosta, Bryan Dick, Christopher Simpson, Manuel de Blas, Phyllis Logan. (English, Spanish dialogue)

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