FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

#2010s

 

Girls will be girls…

 

Five Catholic Scottish teenage schoolgirls from Fort William take a school trip to Edinburgh for a choir competition but are more interested in bars, shopping and men.

 

OUR LADIES Trailer (2020) Teen Comedy Movie, Movie Coverage

 

One night during this pandemic, after a major bout of homesickness, Darlin Husband found me the perfect remedy. Our Ladies (2019) is a coming of age drama-comedy set in Scotland with plotlines set in Fort William and Edinburgh. We have visited both of these Scottish towns as a couple, and the former is a wee town in the Western Highlands surrounded by mountains, that we’ve remembered for Bison chilli and a warm family reunion. Edinburgh is the capital of Scotland and a much bigger town where my dad lived for many years.

Our Ladies is a Scottish film about five Scottish teenage girls and the whole film is based in Scotland. It brought a constant smile to my face with convincing Scottish accents from those non-Scots and always familiar Scottish sights, Scottish jargon and credible characters. It’s a film that would possibly need subtitles for you non-Scots, but I believe that dubbing would lose that charming Scottish ambience, screenplay and humour that just can’t be translated. But its screenplay is not one for wee kids, as the content has these girls talking frankly about sex and there are also scenes of a sexual nature.

The film is set over the period of a day during these girls’ final school days in 1996. A wee in-film reminder reminds you this was a time before social media and mobile phones. The plot tells of five Scottish schoolgirls who we meet as a group, clad in virginal white frocks and singing next to a loch in the mountains. These girls attend a Catholic school run by nuns and are on the cusp of leaving school for good. As the film starts they are about to attend a school trip for a choir competition in Edinburgh.

These five close friends all have different ambitions and hopes, secrets and dreams and all of these – and much more – are explored in the movie. It seems that winning a choir competition is the last thing on any of their minds… it’s more about going for sneaky alcoholic drinks at karaoke bars, chatting up (and bedding) the local talent – in Edinburgh or Fort William – and making their dreams come true.

The girls couldn’t be more different. There’s Orla (Tallulah Greive), a young girl who is apparently in remission after leukaemia. She wants to lose her virginity and she has planned exactly how she wants to do this and how.

Manda (Sally Messham), is the mouthy one who is drifting apart from her long-term, best friend since nursery, Fionnula (Abigail Lawrie). Fionnula’s ambitions clash with Manda’s plan to get a house, a man, a kid and cable TV as soon as possible after leaving school.

Fionnula is intelligent and had her more ambitious plans stumped because of her poorer background. She also has secrets of her own after leaving the group in Edinburgh, she visits a gay bar and there she bumps into Kay who was there “to use the loo”.

Chelle (Rona Morison) is an island girl, who misses her father after his untimely death by drowning during a boating accident. She hates being called a tinker (traveller) and is quite defensive about this label. She has reportedly been with a lineup of men but as Orla believes “is just looking for her daddy”.

The musically talented – and constantly smoking – Kylah (Marli Siu) is the lead singer of a pop band with the local schoolboys. A wee flashback shows she has realised her ambition to work – after a wee bit of manipulation – in the musical department of a then prolific all goods store, just to get discounts on CDs.

These girls and a busload of their peers then go on a school trip for a choir competition, organised by a nun (Kate Dickie), Sister Condron. This nun is affectionately known as Sister Condom by the schoolgirls. Before they leave, the girls smoke cigarettes and talk frankly to each other about their sexual desires and chat with a one time classmate who left school earlier due to getting pregnant.

The girls plan to hit the local nightclub on their return from the trip after Orla excitedly tells them that she saw a submarine en route to their hometown, Fort William. The girls believe this will mean sexually frustrated men hitting their local nightclub.

These schoolgirls are from the Our Lady of Succour’s School where the girl’s version of the school motto is “bottoms up, knickers down”. We meet them before they leave on the trip. Orla makes a wee prayer, as she hopes there will be no arguments between the girls and a successful trip. She plans to spend her money saved for a Greek holiday on a dream pair of boots on a shopping trip, planned for after they get to Edinburgh.

Manda adds some of her grandmother’s vodka (in the bathroom) to a more innocent-looking bottle of coke (which is a nice credible touch). She then collects it from the outside on her way to school. The other girls are seen watching Kayla singing in a band, with a schoolboy heartthrob Dickie and his pals as musical support.

The all-girl choir are warned by the nun of men’s “sinful wickedness” and depravity of men who will “use” and “discard” them (and a familiar talk for those who went to all-girls schools). They pose for a photo for the local paper with the nun, and then this bus trip shows this group of girls taking over the back seats on the bus. On their way to Edinburgh, the girls talk about sex, and Orla confesses her sexual fantasies more fully to her pals. You can feel the friction between Manda and Finnoula during their conversation.

For the five girls, it’s all banter, writing lewd and sexually implied comments written on paper and flashing their bras and showing these messages (and their bras) to unsuspecting male drivers who are driving behind the bus. Head girl, Kay (Eve Austin) tries to get in with this group of girls, but this doctor’s daughter who lives in a big house is snubbed by the bright and clever, Finnoula, who can’t afford to go to uni.

On arriving in Edinburgh, the choir is told that they have a few hours free in Edinburgh before they meet at 5pm for the competition. Then after the girls change – in a cafe’s restroom – into more adult looking clothes, put on some make-up, smoke, dance and then stuff their school uniforms into their schoolbags, you know instinctively that this meet up might just not happen… but happen it does. Albeit after more than a few calamities.

However, the now six girls – after Kay pairs off with one of them –  for reasons you’ll discover at 5pm, will be reported by the Sister for their “unruly” behaviour, the next school day. The Sister will be given a “full account” of their behaviours… So the girls then go on a further drinking bender in the local nightclub. But I will tell you that a prologue is given for each of these girls, which tells of their then lives after leaving school…

I’ve not known girls like these girls, but now I feel I have thanks to this superb storyline and this young cast’s splendid performances. This film was based on Alan Warner’s book The Sopranos. Each of the well written and credible characters was brought to life beautifully. Their stories and motivations are explained by Orla, and in doing this the film used flashbacks effectively and sparingly to support their individual and their cross-over stories with their friends.

Each member of the group was given a chance to shine and be in the spotlight in their different experiences, in groups and individually. The men and schoolboys in this film, like the girls, came over as individuals and had the right mix of scoundrels, the depraved, more sensitive and love interests for this group of naive schoolgirls. And again I’ll let you discover more of their character’s contributions to the storyline by watching the film.

The film easily meets the balance between comedy and drama. There are more poignant scenes mixed in with the comedy show these naive girls, then hitting the capital and their return to Fort William. There are scenes that perfectly show them as often all mouth about sex as they are then seen as more innocent, young and naive about sexual encounters. This is encaptured perfectly in one scene as a few of the girls discover that saunas are brothels.

There are some wonderful ensemble singing scenes with this talented young cast, singing a number at the karaoke bar. This scene beautifully captures the camaraderie between these girls. In a move, that reminded me of behind the scenes in The Big Chill (1983) the cast was encouraged to bond before filming offset. For this film, I read these girls were given some money by the director to hit some Edinburgh pubs off-screen as a group to promote a more natural and credible friendship, and their resulting warm friendships are felt throughout the film.

The soundtrack in this film has an eclectic mix of music from the 1980s, 1990s and surprisingly post 1996 tracks. Some of these were performed by the actresses and a special mention to Siu and her solo of Ae Fond Kiss that accompanies a montage.

The dialogue and script were wonderfully conveyed by this cast, and the young actresses each complemented their roles. Kate Dickie – a familiar face from Scottish telly – also was at her most convincing as this nun as she warned of the evils of the Edinburgh men and then reprimanded the girls after their behaviour on the trip. In Dickie’s delivery of this dialogue, she reminded me of another Scottish teacher also in her prime, Miss Jean Brodie.

But Scots or non-Scots, I urge you to check out this Scottish fayre with Scottish translation on hand rather than a dubbed or subtitled version. It has all the right ingredients for a Scottish treat and was directed by the director of Rob Roy (1995), Michael Caton Jones. Rob Roy is believed by many Scots to be a travesty, with Irish, Liam Neeson in the title role and American, Jessica Lange, as his Scottish love interest. This was made worse by their unconvincing accents.

But do take a trip back to Our Ladies, a fabulous Scottish film, set in a time just one year after Rob Roy was released at the cinema. There join those innocent schoolgirls as Caton Jones returns to his Scottish roots and those mountains, glens and lochs once again. But this time he’s using much more convincing Scottish accents of all kinds, in this is now my favourite go-to Scottish movie that proves that dreams can come true and “stay with you, like a lover’s voice a mountainside”.

 

Weeper Rating 😦😦😦/10

Handsqueeze Rating  🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂  /10

Hulk Rating: ‎ 0 /10

 


The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon, No  2022

This film review was added to18 Cinema Lane’s The Travel Gone Wrong Blogathon. Other films with this cast are Myra McFadyen in Mamma Mia and Mamma Mia Here We Go Again. Sadly the bad news is that I haven’t reviewed movies with Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison, Marli Siu and Eve Gordon… so watch this space. But if you want some Scotland based movies and TV check out those posts on Madame Sin, Outlander, The Angels Share, Gregory’s Girl, The Ballad of Tam Lin, Loch Ness and my entry on McMillan and Wife for my No True Scotsman Blogathon.


 

11 thoughts on “FILMS… Our Ladies (2019)

  1. Great review and thanks for joining my blogathon! Your article serves as a good reminder that I need to seek out more Scottish cinema. Two years ago, for the So Bad It’s Good Blogathon, I reviewed the 2011 Hallmark film, ‘The Cabin’, which takes place in Scotland. Let’s just say the movie is not worth writing home about.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This sounds like a special film. I like that the girls formed bonds before filming, and as I re-watch the trailer, they seem very natural with each other. I might need subtitles, but I know I’ll enjoy it. (And I agree with you re: dubbing. It’s not the same at all, and it pulls a person out of the narrative.)

    Liked by 1 person

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