When Scotland went to the polls in 2014 it ended a yearlong conversation that seemed to involve the entire country. Virtually everyone was touched by the independence debate, looking inward and re-assessing what being Scottish meant, or should mean.
Aidan Moffat was far from immune to this, and set off on a hazy, whisky-fuelled meander around his homeland. Stocking up on folk songs, he imagined himself as rejuvenating an identifiably Scottish tradition – until he met Sheila Stewart, a true legend of traditional song.
The project, those haphazard concerts, and the relationship between Aidan and Sheila, is expertly captured in Paul Fegan’s new documentary Where You’re Meant To Be. Succinct, entertaining, and – at times – hopelessly moving, it sticks expertly to its task.
In the absence of any complex narrative – our central hero plays some shows, and debates the meaning of folk song – people become the true story. Aidan Moffat’s dry humour comes to the fore, while the indefatigable Sheila Stewart is given a loving portrait on screen. There’s more to Where You’re Meant To Be than this central dynamic, however – take the two rival Nessie hunters, or the offhand insults from a crowd in the Western Isles.
Indeed, when the tour van breaks down in a remote location the party are aided by an elderly widower, whose tale of what it means to be really, truly in love, and to then lose that person after decades of happiness, is one of the most affecting, emotive sights you’ll come across in any cinema this year.
The film never comes close to solving any of its central questions, but then perhaps that’s not the point – the debate was had, and topics raised, but no one came close to producing any workable definition of Scotland, or Scottish folk song. The film ends in a glorious détente, with tradition and modernity, country and city facing off against one another. Where You’re Meant To Be is a quite unassuming, and wholly special venture, one that should resonate far and wide.
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