Glasgow Film Festival review: William McIlvanney, Living with Words

Glasgow Film Festival review: William McIlvanney, Living with Words
Herald Scotland, By Alison Rowat


Our verdict: five stars


An event originally scheduled for the Glasgow Film Theatre’s Cinema Two was switched to the larger Cinema One, such was the demand for tickets to see this documentary portrait of the Laidlaw author. This was a coming home of sorts for the Glasgow University boy, even if he has never really left us.


Produced by Gill Parry and directed by Maurice O’Brien, the 30-minute film charted McIlvanney’s progress from Kilmarnock Public Library onwards, through the years, through the novels, through the city, Glasgow, which became his adopted home, his muse.


Watching the likes of Ian Rankin and Ali Smith reading from his novels, and seeing Denise Mina in the packed audience, the affection, respect, and love in which McIlvanney is held was clear.


This was particularly the case whenever members of his family made an appearance in the film, his brother Hugh especially.


If there is a TV commissioning editor out there who wants to make a hit Scottish series about a band of two brothers they should sign this double act immediately.


Indeed, the only thing one could fault O’Brien’s film for was being too short. Just as Cinema Two had to be replaced by Cinema One, so O’Brien should make his film longer.


The man himself took part in a Q&A afterwards, led by the festival’s co-director, Allan Hunter. McIlvanney spoke of the "street reviews" one can only find in Glasgow, of the first books he read, the movie stars he adored, and how touched he was that so many people had bought tickets to see the film.


"I can’t believe the number of folk who’ve turned up," he said. "You’ve saved my ego."


But GFT Cinema One was not done yet. After hearing McIlvanney dedicate the evening to his mother and read a poem written for her, the audience stood as one and applauded.


McIlvanney has always done Glasgow proud. Given the chance tonight, Glasgow returned the compliment.