Comfort and Joy (1984)

We often start our holiday film viewing with this quirky little comedy by director Bill Forsyth, whose best known film is probably Local Hero (1983). Even though Comfort and Joy is one of the outlier films (i.e., with no character actor connection to the other movies on our watch list) we will start with it again this year because its original attraction was the soundtrack by Mark Knopfler, who has recently released a new album and scheduled a concert tour in 2019.


Scottish disc jockey Alan “Dickie” Bird is a local celebrity whose private life has come unraveled when his kleptomaniac girl friend suddenly leaves him.  Looking for some new direction, he stumbles into a Glasgow “ice cream war” between competing ice cream truck companies (Mr. McCool vs. Mr. Bunny), who vandalize each other’s trucks and even Dickie’s precious red BMW sports car.  Caught up in the madness, Dickie mediates the feud and eventually suggests a cooperative business: ice cream fritters.


The film begins with a scene in a department store bustling with holiday shoppers, and it ends on Christmas day with Dickie Bird at the radio station spinning records and tales for his loyal audience.


While none of the actors appear in other films on our holiday watch list, this film is filled with charming characters from the radio station manager to the psychoanalyst to members of the warring ice cream gangs.


The sound track by Mark Knopfler is jazzy and clever, with an allusion to The Godfather that fits the film’s satire.  One track on the soundtrack album is called “A Fistful of Ice Cream” echoing an old Clint Eastwood western. Comfort and Joy also includes repeated brief cuts from Knopfler’s Love Over Gold album by Dire Straits, and for aficionados a quick quote from one of the lyrics.  (Barbara wants to ask Mark Knopfler, should we ever meet him in a bar, if he also wrote Mr. Bunny’s ice cream truck tune.) But mostly we just love this charming, funny and wistful story with its amusing characters.


Sorry to say, but I can’t seem to find this movie on Netflix, Amazon Prime, etc.  You can purchase used VHS tapes via Amazon.  Be careful! The DVD available on Amazon is non-USA format, and there is a 2003 made-for-TV movie by the same name that is available in loads of places, but it has no connection (other than title) to Bill Forsyth’s film.  You can see a short clip on YouTube and also listen to a track from the album with some sample scenes from the film.