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, as lanky buffoon Gregory (the brilliant John Gordon Sinclair) attempts to pull football sensation Dorothy (an imperious Dee Hepburn).
Set around the failings of a useless school football team (“heard they got a corner last week and took a lap of honour”) what plot there is concerns the attempts of gawky Gregory to earn the affection of star striker Dorothy, who has taken her place in the first eleven.
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