Gormless Gregory gets the girl…
A charming coming of age Scottish film by Bill Forsyth from the early 1980s about adolescent love, football and girls.
Gregory’s Girl (1981) Roadshow Home Video Australia Trailer, FilmwaysVTC and photos by ITC Entertainment
Reading the TV listings with the fervent hope that I’d find something new to watch that hadn’t been repeated ad nauseam a couple of weeks previously, my darlin’ husband and I were happy to see a mutually long loved Scottish film on the schedule. This was perfectly timed as I was feeling a wee bit homesick for my family’s West Coast Scottish humour and accents with the only current Scottish references on Finnish TV being Gordon Ramsay and Outlander‘s Scottish born cast.
The film was Gregory’s Girl (1981), which will be reviewed in a wee while. I’ve always loved this film, as it’s a charming young first love story with more Scottish accents, Scottish humour and sayings than your average Scottish based Outlander episode. Usually, the sort of episode where Jamie and Murtagh engage in some Scottish banter which goes over Claire’s Sassenach head and you as a Scot have to explain to those of the audience who don’t understand Scottish idioms and accents.
However, Darlin Husband sees Gregory’s Girl, made in 1980 as a “Spot the future Taggart star” as it is a long-standing joke that all Scottish actors will have worked in the Scottish TV police detective drama, Taggart (1983-2010), as all Australian actors – including the lovely Chris Hemsworth – work in Neighbours (1985-).
The film centres around Gregory (Gordon John Sinclair), a tall gangly mid-adolescent lad living in Cumbernauld, a new town near Glasgow. The film is set here despite many of the cast having strong Glaswegian accents. It is also set in 1980 so some of the “modern ideas” mentioned seem a bit dated, with the Finnish name for this movie being translated as “Gregory’s Girl – A Modern Romance”.
The film starts with a young nurse undressing at a window with five mid-adolescent boys spying on her from the woods outside. One of them is preparing to take a photo while the others egg her on to take her top off in loud whispers, waiting with bated breath for the moment when she becomes topless, and they all order photos of this once this shot is taken.
We then cut to Gregory talking with PE teacher, Phil Menzies about the football team. Menzies looks very much like the stereotypical 1980s PE teacher with a black stripey tracksuit and dodgy comb-over haircut and would be played by Steve Buschemi if the Americans remade this film (which I hope they don’t!).
Gregory is being moved to play in goal as the teacher wants some new blood in the team as they are losing so many games that season. As Menzies searches for a replacement, Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) appears. Dorothy is young, pretty and can play football and she literally runs hoops around the others getting a place on the team.
Gregory then falls for her from afar.. enthusing about her to his friends – and wee sister – like a love-sick puppy. Dorothy, not noticing that she is the object of Gregory’s attention, gets many more admirers once she joins the team from both her team members and the opposing side. The headmaster (Chic Murray) also gives his approval to this “modern” idea. And probably the approval from most of the adolescent males being forced to watch this as their sisters wanted to watch it on the telly.
After a game, Dorothy talks to Gregory in the changing room and Gregory is awkward and nervous but chats to her making her laugh. It’s kind of difficult to watch as an adult as the conversation reminds you of the difficulties you had when you tried to impress the guy you had a crush on, saying something that makes you look silly and childish instead of the sophisticated, witty person you wanted to impress him with.
Later, one lunchtime, Gregory is summoned by a younger kid to meet Dorothy who asks to meet him for football practice. This ends up with Gregory plucking up the courage and then asking her out on a date… and you as the reader know what to do if you want to know if Gregory gets the girl!
The performances in this film from the younger cast are fantastically – and at times frighteningly – realistic and the writing superb. The writing easily captures the nuances of first love and adolescent yearnings. The writing had familiar phrases and sayings, I remember from my upbringing with Glaswegian relatives. This made the film so much more authentic and believable with Bill Forsyth capturing this perfectly from his own Glaswegian past.
The cast playing the adolescent boys are girls was fantastic, easily captured the awkwardness and vulnerability of boys in mid-adolescence at the age where you are trying desperately to attract the opposite sex and failing miserably.
As for the girls they were as oblivious to their often unrequited love as I was at their age, as I’d only find out from good friends that I was fancied by X and Y. As for the teachers you can now learn what they used to (I hope not now!) discuss in classrooms and the headmaster’s office.
The film also has some fun moments showing the eccentricities of school life such as a running gag with an unknown child dressed as a penguin and a boy smoking a pipe in the boys’ toilets. As for Taggart, more than a few of the cast did move on to Taggart appearances but not sure exactly how many were corpses. One or two faces to look out for, one is that of Clare Grogan, lead singer of Altered Images, a pop group from the 1980s who did work in Taggart – before you ask – and many more Bill Forsythe productions.
Another familiar face is one of the teachers Alec, who was played by Alex Norton who also moved on from Taggart for Hollywood with films such as Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest (2006) and Braveheart (1995). This of course came after appearances in the obligatory Scottish TV appearances similar to the Aaron Spelling actors and actresses who appeared as guest stars for all his productions in the 1980s.
Sinclair himself changed around his first two names being the more recognisable John Gordon Sinclair. Dee Hepburn moved on to Crossroads (1964-88) and a short film career. However, if you are Scottish, of a certain age and want to relive your (probably) painful adolescent yearnings, the dodgy fashions and haircuts of this era then I would wholeheartedly recommend this film as it is definitely on the ball.
Weeper Rating: 😦😦😦😦 /10
Handsqueeze Rating: /10
Hulk Rating: /10
For the British Invaders Blogathon run by A Shroud of Thoughts, I am adding this review of Gregory’s Girl (1980). More about this blogathon can be found HERE. Other Scottish films and TV can be found HERE in the Scottish category. For films and TV with non-Scots playing Scots with Scottish accents check out my blogathon HERE.