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Gregory's Girl (1980)

Courtesy of Euro London Films Ltd

Main image of Gregory's Girl (1980)
35mm, 91 minutes, colour
DirectorBill Forsyth
Production CompanyNational Film Trustee Co;
 Lake Film Prodns
ProducersDavina Belling
 Clive Parsons
ScreenplayBill Forsyth
CinematographyMichael Coulter

Cast: Gordon John Sinclair (Gregory); Dee Hepburn (Dorothy); Jake D'Arcy (Phil Menzies); Clare Grogan (Susan); Robert Buchanan (Andy); William Greenlees (Steve)

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Gangly, awkward teenager Gregory falls head over heels for school soccer star Dorothy. But the course of true love never did run smooth.

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Bill Forsyth's slightly-plotted tale of an ungainly teenager's romantic yearning is arguably the warmest and most thoroughly charming British film to emerge from the dark days of the early 1980s.

Though it deals, in its own wryly playful way, with the torture of adolescence, and despite the opening scene, in which Gregory and his mates spy on a nurse undressing, Gregory's Girl is strikingly innocent. No drugs or violence stalk the school playground, and the boys' toilets are the province not of bullies or smokers but of a thriving home-made confectionary business - and a rival venture selling very demure photographs of football heroine Dorothy. And when Gregory finally gets his moment of romantic fulfilment - not with the unattainable Dorothy, but with the wily Susan (Clare Grogan, singer of summery pop group Altered Images, and a poster girl for sensitive teenage boys) - the horizontal dancing he proposes is entirely chaste.

In a film whose adults are remote or uninspiring (Gregory's father is reduced to requesting an audience with his son at the breakfast table; artless football coach Mr Menzies cultivates a moustache to look more 'grown-up'; the headmaster indulges a secret cake passion), and the boys are childlike slaves to their hormones, it's the girls who corner the market in wisdom, effortlessly manipulating their unworthy suitors. Wisest of all is Gregory's 10-year-old sister, Madeline, who generously dispenses top quality romantic advice to her clueless brother between sips of ginger beer and ice cream.

Despite such cute devices, Gregory's Girl deftly sidesteps preciousness and treacly sentimentality, thanks largely to the freshness and conviction of its young cast, but also to its imagination, wit and unpretentious experimentalism. Critic Gilbert Adair, writing in Sight & Sound, hailed it as "a well nigh flawless comedy" and saw echoes in it of the energy and wit of the early French new wave. Certainly, one scene, in which an impromptu dressing room training session involving Dorothy and Mr Menzies develops into a spontaneous dance, calls to mind Jean-Luc Godard's Bande à Part (France, 1964), while other touches of low-key surrealism, notably the pupil in full penguin costume forlornly wandering the school corridors, suggest a similar debt. And as we follow Gregory on his roving, uncertain 'date', Forsyth almost convinces us that the unglamorous, concrete new town of Cumbernauld is as romantic as Paris.

Mark Duguid

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Video Clips
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Forsyth, Bill (1946-)