An antidote to all those 80’s-era US teen movies with their genetically-modified casts and big cars, Bill Forsyth’s gentle comedy shows teenagers in all their gawky, spotty, horny glory, particularly lanky buffoon Gregory (the brilliant John Gordon Sinclair) who takes his schooling philosophically rather than seriously and reserves all his energy and enthusiasm for football – and a spot of harmless voyeurism wit the gang down at the nurses home of an evening.
Into Gregory’s world comes Dorothy (an imperious Dee Hepburn) who, possessing a marked talent for football, sees no reason why she shouldn’t have a place in the school team.
Sadly, Gregory’s talents don’t match Dorothy’s and – failing to hold a position in the forwards – he is relegated to goal.
Notwithstanding his inferiority to Dorothy on the football field, Gregory falls hopelessly in love with her, and we watch with considerable amusement the ups and downs of this budding romance.
Dorothy rebuffs Gregory’s puppy-dog enthusiasm, passing him onto the quirky Susan (ex-Altered Images vocalist Clare Grogan).
Although the film works perfectly as a straight down the line romance, the real heart of the film lies in a myriad of quirky vignettes (the horizontal dancing escapade), winning absurdity (a kid in a penguin suit waddles the school hallways for no apparent reason) and interesting teen characters that are miles away from the stereotypes served up by countless John Hughes movies.
Forsyth peppers the dialogue with quotable gems and funnies yet never sells short the truthfulness, desperation and small-time pains of adolescence.
Indeed, the whole film is engendered with a generous, likeable sensibility that plays delightfully at odds with the concrete comprehensive surroundings.
Forsyth also crafts winning performances from the whole of the cast – D’Arcy’s misguided football coach is a delight – with Hepburn, by turns driven and winsome.
The show is stolen, though, by Clare Grogan, as the shy girl in the chemistry class who bursts into the last few frames as a Caledonian sex-elf.
Although the pace is choppy, the story abounds with charming observations and appealing characters, adding up to a wonderful, off-beat portrait of the bollock-aching elation of first love, which neither director or cast ever came close to topping again.
Bill Forsyth directed a strange sequel – Gregory’s Two Girls – in 1999. The gangly hero of the original film, Greg Underwood (John Gordon Sinclair), was now 35 and an English teacher at his old school in Cumbernauld. It’s a truly terrible sequel but a modestly watchable if forgettable low-budget drama/comedy in its own right.
John Gordon Sinclair