Gregory's Girl

Gregory's Girl

****

Reviewed by: Jeff Robson

That strange, sometimes painful and frequently ludicrous process called growing up has rarely been more perfectly delineated than in Forsyth’s sparkling comedy, still a barrel of laughs thirty years on. It takes a simple premise, uses a young and untried cast, and never strives for “social significance”, cheap laughs or manufactured drama – yet the end result is a gem that scooped a hatful of awards, regularly makes the “Best of British” film lists and has such a status in the nation’s cultural psyche that a clip was used in the 2012 Olympics opening ceremony.

The titular Gregory (Sinclair) is a teenage schoolboy growing up in a Scottish new town and the “star” player in the school football team. When their spectacular losing streak prompts the coach (D’Arcy) to make some changes, Gregory’s somewhat peeved to be demoted to goalie – but brightens up when the most obvious talent in the trials for his replacement is the “gorgeous” Dorothy (Hepburn), a new girl in town. He pursues her ardently and incompetently, to the mixed jealousy and disgust of his mates, who think the whole idea of girls playing footie is “no’ normal”. She’s patently not interested, however, unlike her friend Susan (Grogan). Eventually Dorothy agrees to go out with Gregory, but he finds the date doesn’t turn out quite as planned...

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And, plot-wise, that’s just about it. But the real pleasure of the film is in the non-stop parade of funny, well-observed scenes and killer lines of dialogue, which have Withnail And I levels of quotability among cinemagoers of a certain age. Forsyth the writer captures the often ridiculous intensity of teenage infatuation and growing pains in general with the sureness of a born observer of human nature. And as a director he develops the core cast from his debut feature That Sinking Feeling, together with a few newcomers, resulting in a string of fresh and natural performances.

Sinclair has the charm and screen presence in abundance that make his subsequent solid career no surprise, while Grogan has the easygoing girl-next-door charisma that’s led to roles in everything from Eastenders to Father Ted (as well as frontwomaning the great Altered Images, of course). Hepburn is such a natural that it’s easy to see why she was offered the lead roles in Castaway and Bolero before deciding to give up acting and there’s a great comic turn from D’Arcy as the coach – the eternal frustrated footballer who’s found that becoming a teacher hasn’t stopped him being the school figure of fun.

Some of the performances further down the order are a bit more stilted and the camerawork is of the point-and-shoot variety, with the exception of the final scenes, when the never-ending light and mellow vibe of a long summer evening is beautifully evoked. But the pleasure of the film is in its glorious, warm, wise and witty script. From the opening shot of the lads being driven to sexual delirium by the sight of a nurse undressing to the last scene of Greg’s even more inept mates setting off for Caracas, where women outnumber men eight to one (“it’s a well-known fact!”) Forsyth (unlike his hero) never puts a foot wrong. Bella, Bella, indeed.

Reviewed on: 10 May 2013
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Gregory's Girl packshot
A gangly schoolboy develops a crush on a girl who plays some of the best football he's ever seen - but dealing with girls is even more complicated than it first appears.
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Director: Bill Forsyth

Writer: Bill Forsyth

Starring: John Gordon Sinclair, Dee Hepburn, Clare Grogan

Year: 1980

Runtime: 87 minutes

BBFC: 12 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

Glasgow 2010

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