in ,

Gregory’s Girl


‘…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…’

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 grass 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. 


Leave a Reply
  1. I don’t know from Gregory’s Girl – I assume she’s related to neither Jessie’s Girl nor Georgy Girl, as both of them are…Australian, I now realize. Huh – but this did get me to look up “Local Hero,” and good Lord, you’re telling me that once upon a time Peter Capaldi looked like a human being and not a tree branch?

    • Local Hero is a film that’s still seen as the best film made in Scotland, by Scots. It looked easy to do at the time, but the fear has been hard to repeat. Capaldi’s breakthough for sure, never thought he was a good fit for Dr Who, but to quote from Jessie’s girl, ‘ the point is probably moot’…

  2. Cumbernauld is where my tax office was in the job before this one. Probably not shown in the movie. I don’t remember the movie except for Clare Grogan.

  3. You are right of course to comment on the unfortunate juxtaposition of contemporary events and this celebration of one of the warmest and most perceptive social comedies ever to emerge from the UK. But I do prefer this to Local Hero. The depiction of the school puts this next to Kes (1969) and the school scenes of The Beiderbecke Trilogy (1985-8) as the very best of UK film and TV. The ‘authenticity’ of Gregory’s Girl must be more apparent to you than to me – but you didn’t mention Clare Grogan! The inept British males and the intelligent and imaginative females are the bedrock of the best British comedies.

    • That last line is exactly what I’m trying to say, many thanks! I think Gregory’s Girl needs careful treatment now; it’s not endorsing the male attitudes of the time, but demonstrating how a character can get beyond that. It’s a little awkward and uncomfortable to watch in 2023, but that’s still right for Gregory, who is both of these things. This film is legandary in Scotland, and particularly Scottish schools, but it’s all very unforced by Forsyth, who has a very light touch for an early film in his career. Nice to remember James Bolam in Beiderbecke, still have his line about ‘rescuing the perishables in my head’ ; great little show in its day.

    • Mixed sports, and particularly football, remains something of a rarity to this day. This film suggests otherwise, but girls and boys generally do different things.

  4. I have some memory of this but I can’t be 100% sure I ever saw it. Don’t think the nostalgia would work as well for me. Watched Local Hero again recently and sort of gave it a shrug.

    • Worth seeking out; some view it as superior to Local Hero, which I should take another look at. Nostalgia is one thing, but Forsyth was a fairly unique voice and its a shame that his talent wasn’t properly valued by the film system here.

One Ping

  1. Pingback:

Leave a Reply