Gregory's Girl - DVD Review

'Something like an ‘80s Scottish Inbetweeners minus a great deal of crudeness'.

Apparently a staple in British secondary schools until at least the late 1990s - when my own introduction to this film came as part of the PSHE programme on “sex and relationships” - Gregory’s Girl received a boost more recently by appearing last year on Barry Norman’s list of the forty-nine greatest British films ever made. Whether or not this means a whole new generation of teenagers will be made to shift awkwardly in their seats, as they see their own juvenile angst and hormonal imbalances played out in 1980s Scotland, remains to be seen.

Explaining his choice, Norman stated that “Most American films about teenagers… are about sex. Gregory’s Girl is about love, which is much better”. Whilst the perspective of which is better lies entirely with each individual viewer, to say that Bill Forsyth’s film deals solely with love requires the application of rose-tinted spectacles with particularly thick lenses. Love certainly enters the mix, especially during the film’s endearingly sweet final act, but there’s just as much here about the primal reproductive urges bubbling up inside Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) and his friends. Look no further than the opening scene of the gang spying on a nurse through her bedroom window, enthusiastically willing her to “take off her brassiere”.

Whilst young love and young lust vie for screen time, what makes Gregory’s Girl work is the oodles of British charm contained within. Sinclair as Gregory is an endlessly likeable presence, his gangly frame and geeky demeanour creating an authentic yet comical representation of a typical teenage schoolboy. His mates Andy (Robert Buchanan), Charlie (Graham Thompson) and Steve (William Greenlees) provide pleasing support, the gang feeling something like an ‘80s Scottish Inbetweeners minus a great deal of crudeness. The girls also do well, with both Dee Hepburn and Clare Grogan in particular providing satisfying turns.

Charming as it is, the film does have its problems, not least a few elements having aged particularly badly. Whilst the sexist attitude of football coach Phil Menzies (Jake D’Arcy) towards allowing Dorothy (Hepburn) to play on the school team can be forgiven as a relic of a time gone by, it’s far less comfortable to witness the sexual manner in which several of the teachers openly view their students. In terms of craft, Gregory’s Girl also shows its age here and there. Even taking into account that this was clearly made on a small budget, the televisual style of production nonetheless makes Forsyth’s film feel quite dated throughout.

Gregory’s Girl is a film of simplicity and innocence, which simultaneously provides it both strengths and limitations. Focusing on Gregory, his friends and others attending their school allows for a teenage perspective to be genuinely built up, but it also means that several other areas feel underdeveloped. A complicated relationship between Gregory’s parents is hinted towards at a couple of points but never developed, something which could have added some welcome additional substance. The only non-teenage character who escapes this fate is Gregory’s younger sister Madeleine (Allison Forster), coming across as precocious but never conceited and sharing some of the film’s loveliest scenes with her brother.

Whilst it’s certainly not perfect, watching Gregory’s Girl with a healthy measure of nostalgia is likely to prove a satisfying experience for many, especially those who remember seeing at least a bit of Gregory inside themselves during their formative years - and perhaps in some cases still do. Whether you rate Gregory’s Girl among your top British films or not, there’s undoubtedly plenty here to like.

Gregory's Girl is released on UK DVD and Blu-ray today.

By Ben Broadribb. Ben is a regular contributor to Film Intel, having previously written at Some Like It Hot Fuzz. He is normally seen in the wild wearing t-shirts containing obscure film references. He is a geek, often unashamedly so. He's also on and Twitter.

No comments:

Post a Comment