Review: Newly restored “Gregory’s Girl”

Out on blu-ray for the first time thanks to a BFI restoration, Bill Forsyth’s Gregory’s Girl has a golden reputation; a key film in Scottish and UK cinematic history, it’s also an indie darling that’s still talked about and quoted today. But in 2023, it’s also a problematic film that’s of it’s time and needs a little unpacking. It’s a tale of a lovelorn Cumbernauld teenager named Gregory (John Gordon Sinclair) who loses his place in the school football team to Dorothy (Dee Hepburn). He fancies her, of course, but life has other plans for Gregory.

Gregory’s Girl was made back in 1980, and bridged the gap between Forsyth’s debut, the enduringly pawky That Sinking Feeling about a Glasgow sink heist, and his best film, the accomplished Local Hero. Gregory’s Girl does a good job of getting inside the head of a young West of Scotland male; perhaps too well at times. We start with a group of boys spying on a nurse’s changing room at a local hospital; using binoculars, they watch a girl undress, and we share the view. There’s nothing wrong with the human body, but enforced voyeurism isn’t such a great look, and scenes like this aren’t subtext, they’re the text.

Similarly, it’s seen as a great gag that when Dorothy scores a goal at football, not only do her own players land congratulatory kisses on her, but the opposition do as well. In the light of the on-going Spanish football scandal, with a male official resigning for doing the same to a female player, it’s a joke doesn’t play so well today. And while the badinage in the school staffroom is well caught, particularly Chic Murray’s brief but iconic turn as a CGAF headmaster, there’s also a suggestion about a potential paedophile teacher that’s also treated like just another what-are-men-like? joke.

1980 was a year awash with crude, sexist comedies, and despite the issues listed above, Gregory’s Girl is more wholesome and honest than any leering Porky’s could aspire to. There’s a cheerful, summry attitude to life, with compassion for Gregory’s predicament, and some faith put in the women who collectively act together to release him from his self-appointed dwam. For all it’s flaws to the modern mind, Gregory’s Girl is a remarkably wholesome film; the bigger picture is that it sees beyond a limited male POV and evokes a wider, humanist picture of life, and that’s why it struck a chord with audiences worldwide.

At over four decades old, Gregory’s Girl is still a classic, well worth reviving and looking better than ever before in HD; you can practically smell the fresh cut crass as Gregory strolls around Cumbernauld in the evening. If Forsyth’s examination of sexism requires a few trigger warnings today, then fine; it’s a film of a specific moment. But Gregory himself is not a thug, a Neanderthal or a sexist, but a young, growing boy afflicted by chronic self-consciousness, and his lessons learned in growing up are ones that many young Scottish males are still struggling to come to terms with.

Gregory’s Girl is out on blu-ray from Sept 11th 2023. Thanks to BFI for access. 

Source: Gregory’s Girl

Gregory’s Girl: ‘The affection for it overwhelms me’

The teenage romantic comedy set in a Scottish new town has been an enduring success for 40 years.

Hardly a day goes by without somebody asking Clare Grogan to quote a line from Gregory’s Girl, the teenage romantic comedy set in a Scottish new town which became an unlikely hit when it was released 40 years ago this week.

“Sometimes they ask me if I can lie down in a bank of grass and dance,” says Grogan, who was just 18 when she filmed that scene in the film four decades ago.

Grogan, whose career also included huge success as a pop star in the band Altered Images, told BBC Scotland she does not mind the constant reminders of a film she made when she was a teenager.

“It is the gift that keeps on giving,” she says.

Continue reading

Gregory’s Girl: the sweet teenage love story set in Scottish new town turns 40

The sweet coming of age film, written and directed by Bill Forsyth and set in the new town of Cumbernauld, was released four decades ago on April 23, 1981.

Then, it felt like a story of our times and gave Scottish life a lighter, more modern feel. A dreamy synth soundtrack unfolded over scenes of fresh housing, concrete walkways and wide open spaces shaped by the promise of a new way of new town living.

The sun always seemed to be shining – or setting – on this place where pretty girls in cool clothes played football and did science experiments at a gargantuan comprehensive, the real-life Abronhill High. Boys were gangly geeks, children were more grown up than the teachers and little sisters were the boss.

Dee Hepburn as Dorothy and John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory in the 1981 classic movie, Gregory's Girl. It was released 40 years ago today. PIC: Contributed.
Dee Hepburn as Dorothy and John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory in the 1981 classic movie, Gregory’s Girl. It was released 40 years ago today. PIC: Contributed.

For those who saw the film as a kid in the early 80s – possibly on one of the first VHS tapes to come into the house – it seemed to mark a moment. Forty years on, the same still seems true.

Dr Jonny Murray, Senior Lecturer in Film and Visual Culture at Edinburgh College of Art, said: “For many people from a certain generation there is an undying affection for Gregory’s Girl mainly because, for many of us, it was everyday Scottish life as we recognised it put on a cinema screen.

John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory,  the gangly schoolboy who got his girl in the end. PIC:  Contributed.
John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory, the gangly schoolboy who got his girl in the end. PIC: Contributed.

“You have the pleasure of watching the film and being able to recognise this incredibly imaginative and humorous depiction of how we lived our lives.”

Continue reading

My Glasgow: Clare Grogan

Clare Grogan was a waitress at the Spaghetti Factory in the West End – where Stravaigan is now – in 1980 when she was discovered by director Bill Forsyth, who cast her alongside members of the Glasgow Youth Theatre in Gregory’s Girl. Shortly afterwards, her band, Altered Images, signed a record deal for their debut LP, Happy Birthday.

Altered Images went on to tour and release music until 1984 when Clare went solo. She has continued her acting and performing career, adding television presenting and writing a children’s novel, Tallulah and the Teenstars, about a girl who forms a pop band.

Clare remembers some of her favourite Glasgow people and places, a feature from The Best of Glasgow City Guide and Cookbook.

Glasgow Life/Damian Shields

My Glasgow

I have travelled the world and although I’m biased, I think Glasgow has an amazing amount to offer. The buildings are spectacular, the arts, music and culture scene is incredibly diverse and inclusive. And the curries are the best. 

My daughter Elle asked me when she was little if everyone in Glasgow knew each other – I explained that people in Glasgow are the friendliest people I’ve ever come across.  We try to keep that flag waving in London where we live.

My earliest memories here are of growing up in Hill Street and being afraid of the Art School building around the corner. I remember my great aunt Winnie playing the organ at St Aloysius Church and watching films sitting on my mum’s knee at the ABC cinema on Sauchiehall Street.

Our neighbours, the Capaldis, gave me and my sisters Margaret and Kathleen chewing gum – which we were not allowed. I also remember my Dad’s spag bols. And new shoes from Clarks at the start of every school term.

Kelvingrove Park

I had my first cappuccino in Cafe Gandolfi – still one of my favourite places to meet and eat.

I also love the Kelvingrove Gallery – my parents took us when we were little and I go every year. It’s particularly amazing if someone is playing the organ.

I love the Centre for Contemporary Arts and I love the Citizens Theatre – where I saw my first naked man!

I can’t leave out the No 59 bus…don’t know if it’s still a thing, but it took me everywhere I needed to go and I had the best laughs at the back of the bus on it.

When I think of Glasgow I think of crossing the Kingston Bridge and looking both ways down the Clyde.

It’s still one of my favourite places to shop and I still love running occasionally to all the corners of Bellahouston Park where I used to run when we moved to the Southside.

I love Glasgow every which way – it’s in every bit of me.

Source: My Glasgow: Clare Grogan – Glasgowist