tue 23/04/2024

Blu-ray: Gregory's Girl | reviews, news & interviews

Blu-ray: Gregory's Girl

Blu-ray: Gregory's Girl

Bill Forsyth's peerless romantic comedy returns

Match of the day: Dee Hepburn and John Gordon Sinclair in 'Gregory's Girl'

Gregory’s Girl stands alongside Kes as one of the few films offering a realistic depiction of state school life. Director Bill Forsyth’s surreal flourishes delight without getting in the way: think of the penguin waddling along the corridors, or the young lad glimpsed smoking a pipe in the boys’ toilets.

That Gregory’s Girl exists at all feels like a happy accident; Forsyth’s background was in making low-key documentaries on Scottish subjects and his friendship with John Baraldi, founder of the Glasgow Youth Theatre, prompted him to write the script. When a BFI funding application was rejected, Forsyth instead made That Sinking Feeling, a delicious zero-budget heist movie. Its success allowed him a £200k budget to make the follow-up in 1980, using many of the same cast and shot on location in the new town of Cumbernauld.

Robert Buchanan was originally set for the lead role but casting John Gordon Sinclair instead proved to be a masterstroke. Buchanan steals many scenes as the witless Andy, desperate “to get some girls”, but the gangling Sinclair, gaucheness incarnate, is perfectly cast. His changing-room exchanges with Jake D’Arcy’s PE teacher Mr Menzies are hysterical, Gregory arguing that “football is all about entertaining”, not winning, and that his own poor performance is down to “doing a lot of growing – it slows you down!” Sinclair’s gift for physical comedy is on continual display: watch him attempt to prepare and eat breakfast, or narrowly avoid being run over by his driving instructor father (“We’ll start the driving lessons when you’ve mastered the walking bit”).

Forsyth’s screenplay never puts a foot wrong, and you sense that his young cast relish every line. Gregory is demoted to goalkeeper when Dee Hepburn’s Dorothy joins the team, becoming smitten after the pair discuss minor sports injuries post-match. The scene where he confesses to classmate Steve that he’s fallen in love could be from a '70s sitcom, but is still laugh-out-loud funny.

Gregory packshotForsyth has some gentle fun playing with gender stereotypes. The boys are seen in the domestic science room discussing pastry recipes, and Gregory spends an inordinate amount of time in front of mirrors fretting about his bouffant hair. Meanwhile, Dorothy and Susan (Clare Grogan) are busy in the chemistry labs with a flask of sulphuric acid. Chic Murray’s stern head teacher is more interested in ordering cream cakes and playing jazz piano than imposing discipline. Allison Forster is excellent as Gregory’s smart little sister Madeline, dealing with her own pocket-sized suitor and dispensing sage advice to her brother at the local café. Gregory, attempting to seem sophisticated, orders coffee; asked by the waitress “what colour – black or white?”, he can only look baffled and reply “brown”.

New details emerge with repeat viewings, and you’re increasingly aware of Forsyth’s skill at handling a large ensemble cast. Everyone is fully invested in their roles, from the English teacher lobbing her copy of A Midsummer Night’s Dream at Andy’s head when he won’t stop reading aloud, to the younger boys watching Dorothy’s debut match appearance. It's refreshing to watch a film devoid of jeopardy or threat: Forsyth's teenagers mock and rib one another, but there's no malice.

This 4K restoration looks and sounds superb (has Cumbernauld ever looked so enticing?) and comes with good bonus features. A 2014 commentary with Forsyth and Mark Kermode is fun, and there’s an entertaining alternative featuring Buchanan and three other supporting cast members. And do watch the 2015 BFI interview, Sinclair, Hepburn and Grogan giving us a sense of how much the cast and crew enjoyed making the film.

Sinclair, gaucheness incarnate, is perfectly cast

rating

Editor Rating: 
5
Average: 5 (1 vote)

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