- Katherine McLaughlin
- 28 February 2020
GFF 2020: Catholic schoolgirls go on a bender in this 90s-set dramedy from Michael Caton-Jones
Set in 1996, over one day, Our Ladies sees a group of horny Catholic schoolgirls, from Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, go on a major bender in Edinburgh. They're supposed to be on a choir trip, but all they're really after is some booze and a shag. Adapting Alan Warner's 1998 novel The Sopranos, writer-director Michael Caton-Jones (Rob Roy) has crafted a love letter to the 90s – a time before smartphones, when young women flicked through mags like Just Seventeen or More!, searching for staples like 'Position of the Fortnight' to get their kicks.
The young ensemble are fantastic, and the film gives them a riotous platform to show off their talent. Tallulah Greive brings sensitivity and an innocent grin to Orla who, following a trip to Lourdes, has been 'cured' of leukaemia. Sally Messham sinks her teeth into the memorably hilarious Manda, the protective leader of the pack. Abigail Lawrie displays incredible range as queer-curious Finnoula, who shifts from awkwardly inquisitive to confident over the course of the film. Marli Siu gets some standout moments as the rebellious Kyla, while the flame-haired Rona Morison amuses too, even if her character Chell is given a flimsy back-story.
It may sound like Derry Girls, but the material is emphatically bittersweet, with these working class lasses living enthusiastically in the moment to offset their fears for the future. A heavy reliance on music to set the tone and further the story occasionally hits some bum notes; considering the rest of the film is so down to earth, an iffy scene accompanied by Edwyn Collins's 'A Girl Like You' portraying the girls as otherworldly feels out of place, but other sequences sing with infectious energy, such as a karaoke number at a Northern Soul night.
To his credit, Caton-Jones has created a coming-of-ager that feels like it could have actually existed in the 1990s, as it recalls the humour and chaotic group dynamics of films like The Commitments or Trainspotting. And the wistful perspective, casting a fond eye back over adolescent friendships, might even have you reaching for the tissues.
Available to watch in cinemas from Friday 27 August.