FilmJuice have my review of Bill Forsyth’s unimpeachably wonderful Romantic Comedy Gregory’s Girl.
I have seen Gregory’s Girl a number of times and each time I return to it, I am struck by another wonderful little moment. Set in urban Scotland in the early 1980s, the film takes place in a surprisingly well-mannered state school peopled with a variety of wonderful and colourful characters including the passionate chef, the diminutive football coach, the furtively light hearted head master and, of course, the charmingly naive Gregory. Tall and somewhat gangly, Gregory loses his place on the football team to a particularly athletic young woman:
One of the most striking things about Gregory’s Girl is the thoroughly progressive manner in which Forsyth handles Gregory’s growing obsession with Dorothy. These days, even relatively benign high school movies such as Easy A and Mean Girls go out of their way to sexualise their young female characters in a way that not only turns the audience into voyeurs but also speaks to Hollywood’s lack of confidence in an audience’s ability to empathise with female characters. A remade Gregory’s Girl would linger on Dorothy’s shorts and marvel at her thighs but Forsyth uses Dorothy’s athletic prowess as little more than the distinguishing characteristic that brings her to Gregory’s attention. Before Dorothy, Gregory viewed women as fantasy objects but losing his place on the football team to a girl means that he is suddenly able to relate to that girl as a real person and so falls hopelessly in love with her.
The reason I stress the important of the supporting characters is that Forsyth makes wonderful use of them as a means of providing a sense of emotional scale to what Gregory is undergoing. For example, the film opens with Gregory and his mates peeping at a nurse getting undressed but while Gregory’s realisation that girls can play football allows him to realise that women are people rather than sex objects, two of Gregory’s friends remain stuck in a state of adolescent sexuality and so spend the entire film talking about Caracas where the women reportedly outnumber the men. Also wonderful is the way that the film’s female characters usher Gregory into adulthood by urging him first to look after himself and then to realise that there are plenty of women in the world who are people despite the fact that they do not play football. Without the people around him, Gregory would not be anywhere near as memorable a character. Without the people around him, Gregory would have struggled to grow up.