Movie aimed at battling suicide returns ‘home’ to North Berwick

A film made in a small Scottish seaside town which tackles the issue of suicide among young men has been welcomed by the family of Frightened Rabbit frontman Scott Hutchison, who took his own life last year.

The film has been welcomed by the family of musician Scott Hutchison. Picture: Shutterstock

Connect, starring Scottish actor Kevin Guthrie, who has had lead roles in movies such as Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016), Sunset Song (2014) and Sunshine on Leith (2013) is be shown at Fringe By The Sea in North Berwick, East Lothian, ahead of its cinema release in October.

The screening on 4 August is the first time the film, which includes local residents as extras, has been shown in the town.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Director and writer Marilyn Edmond said she was motivated to write her first script and make the micro-budget film after being affected by the death of a young man she had worked with who was an extra on Outlander and who later took his own life.

Kevin Guthrie

The film’s story centres round Brian (Guthrie), a young man saved from ending his life by a stranger who talks to him and convinces him he has a future, no matter how bleak things might seem.

Brian, who works in a supermarket in the town, then begins volunteering at a care home where he falls in love with Sam, a colleague who is a single parent, before a final twist in the plot.

Locations include Turnbull’s hardware store and the County Hotel.

Edmond, who grew up in Prestonpans, East Lothian, before completing an HND in creative industries and film production at Edinburgh College, said: “I’d been working on Outlander in Newtonmore and there was one of the extras I’d seen acting sometimes and who always seemed so happy. Then I noticed a flurry of activity on Facebook and someone said ‘he’s killed himself’.

“I was totally shocked. What shocked me most was that he was only 23. He didn’t say anything about how he was feeling as far as I know and then he was gone.

“When it came to writing it was this young man who popped into my mind.”

Edmond, who will introduce the film at the town’s community centre, said she had thought long and hard about what message she wanted to get across.

“The most important thing is to reconnect with friends and family,” she said. “When people are in that negative state of mind they don’t think about other people.

“Instead, it’s ‘no-one would ever miss me’. They need that reminder that there are loads of people who love you and would miss you and that they should ask for help. Ninety nine times out of a hundred people don’t have a clue that someone is so down and the chance to help gets lost.”

NHS figures released last month showed that the number of suicides in Scotland increased by 15 per cent last year. In 2018 there were 784 probable suicides, up from 680 in 2017. The figures also showed a far higher rate for men.

In May the family of Scott Hutchison, who took his life in 2018, launched the charity Tiny Changes in his memory aimed at improving mental health in children and young people across the Scotland.

The charity takes its name from a lyric of a Frightened Rabbit song Head Rolls Off (While I’m alive, I’ll make tiny changes to Earth).

Welcoming the film’s screening, Neil Hutchison, one of Scott’s brothers, who runs the charity Tiny Changes with the his family, said: “Suicide is so often a taboo subject, which increases the stigma and makes it less likely for people to talk about how they are feeling and get the help they need. It’s great that this film has been made and is reaching such a wide audience.

He added: “If you are worried about someone you love, ask them if they are OK. Then ask them again.”

Niall Middleton, co-director of the festival said: “North Berwick is such a beautiful and unspoilt town that it is no wonder that it looks great in films. Connect is certainly not the first film to be located here – the island of Fidra featured in Churchill and The Railway Man brought Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman to the town.”.

Fringe By The Sea includes music, theatre, exhibitions, comedy, nature walks and political debates, this year featuring former prime minister Gordon Brown and Secretary of State for Scotland David Mundell, MP, children’s events and talks by authors ranging from Ian Rankin and Val McDermid to Alexander McCall Smith and Malachy Tallack.

Fringe By The Sea, 2-11 August 2019, fringebythesea.com