Karen Gillan stars as Jane Lockhart, a novelist who finds overnight success in a fictionalised account of the tumultuous childhood she spent without a father. Jane, however, feels betrayed when her publisher, Tom Duvall (Stanley Weber), changes the title of her novel — The Endless Anguish Of My Father — to something a little more marketable. Having signed a two-book deal, she must get to work on her next manuscript before she can sever ties with Tom and sign with a new, more understanding publisher.
Unfortunately, with only one chapter left to go, Jane experiences writer’s block. Believing that her romance with the screenwriter (Henry Ian Cusick) tasked with adapting her first book — coupled with the re-emergence of her estranged father (Gary Lewis) — is making her too happy to write, Tom sets out to make her life a living hell. With his business failing, he desperately needs the success guaranteed by Jane’s highly-anticipated follow-up to Happy Endings.
The main problem with Not Another Happy Ending is that there is too much going on, with the script failing to address any individual aspect of the story in the depth that each perhaps deserves. The publisher’s financial troubles feel distant and unclear, while endless shots of Gillan tapping away at her typewriter are devoid of passion or personal import. Jane is supposedly being haunted by the heroine of her unfinished book (played by Amy Manson), but this strange subplot is too often forgotten to feel like an ingrained and necessary part of the narrative.
The fault certainly doesn’t lie with the cast, who each approach their roles with as much gusto as you might reasonably expect. Unfortunately, few actually have characters to play, with Gillan in particular having to rely on her natural charms to shine through the kooky clothing and irritating quirks of a thoroughly two-dimensional character. Weber — who replaced Scotsman Emun Elliott during production, necessitating a rewrite — is persistent too, adding by virtue of nationality at least some novelty to what might otherwise have been yet another unremarkable British rom-com.
Luckily, director John McKay has something of an ace up his sleeve. Cast as Roddy, a frustrated secondary school teacher who seems to live with Tom above the publishing house, Iain De Caestecker elevates the film whenever he is onscreen. Whether teaching his students blatantly wrong information or bonding with a fellow partygoer over their shared love of buses, Roddy steals every scene he is in with an easy charisma and impressive comic timing. Following diametrically opposed performance in Shell, which screened at Glasgow Film Festival earlier this year, the actor is really shaping up as one to watch.
Impeded by a weak script and poorly-drawn characters, Not Another Happy Ended is an all too often muddled and unsatisfying affair. Thankfully, a likeable cast and an unusually positive portrait of life in Glasgow ensures that the film is often amusing, if rarely memorable.