Film Reviews

Gregory’s Girl (1980) – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review

Football, or soccer as Americans like to call it. It’s 2023 and there are still controversies about whether or not women should be allowed to play the game; meanwhile the men’s game is still awash with sexism, corruption, and worse. Even as recently as 1970, women were banned from playing in Football Association grounds, but a decade later a small Scottish film showed that not only are women just as good as men when it comes to the beautiful game, they’re often better.

Written and directed by Bill Forsyth (Local Hero), Gregory’s Girl follows Gregory Underwood (John Gordon Sinclair), a gangly teenager at a secondary school in central Scotland whose main loves are football and girls. Unfortunately for Gregory, he’s not very good at playing with either, and his world is turned upside down when schoolmate Dorothy (Dee Hepburn) shows up for a trial for his team and ends up being put into his position after everyone realises that, despite their sexism and calls of how it’s “unnatural” for a woman to play football, she’s far better than everyone else. But for Gregory, football is suddenly in the background as he falls head over boots for Dorothy, and she agrees to a date with him, failing to notice Susan (Clare Grogan) who herself has a thing for the awkward teenager.

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Gregory’s Girl is an absolutely charming and honest portrayal of growing up as a teenager, particularly in the UK. Using football as the central focus is a masterstroke and enables the viewer to instantly connect to a common touchstone, especially as – back then – football was a working class game. This is evident by Gregory’s group of mates who don’t really know much about girls and seem to be heading towards the breadline, with them passing a white wool sports jacket between them when they are successful enough to arrange a date.

© 1980 STV & BFI.

John Gordon Sinclair is brilliant as Gregory, and makes the character funny and sweet while still being terminally awkward. Forsyth’s writing gets being a teenager so right, such as when Dorothy agrees to the date and he keeps asking her if she’s serious and if it’s a date, and she threatens to say no if he won’t shut up, which is such a perfect microcosm of how insecure teenagers are.

The film is impeccably cast, with Hepburn’s vivacious energy inhabiting the character of Dorothy and Grogan’s subtler sarcastic side allowing for her to be a perfect partner for Gregory. Perhaps the most impressive is Allison Forster as Gregory’s little sister, who is just fantastic in the role of his only real confidant, without the self-conscious precociousness so often highlighted in these kinds of roles.

© 1980 STV & BFI.

The BFI has presented Gregory’s Girl on a 4K UHD disc with a new restoration from the original 35mm camera negative, which is in the BFI National Archive. The negative was scanned in 4K and went through an intensive restoration process to be finished at the original aspect ratio of 1.85:1, and it looks incredible. Given the film’s small budget of £200,000, it looks much more expensive, and has a beautiful clarity that retains cinematographer Michael Coulter’s naturalistic look. The soundtrack was taken from the original masters and is presented in mono, with a sharp forbearing of Forsyth’s often hilarious dialogue and Colin Tully’s charming musical score.

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A generous number of extra features are included, with two audio commentaries – one with Forsyth and Mark Kermode from 2014, and a newly-recorded track with actors Robert Buchanan (Andy), Caroline Guthrie (Carol), Douglas Sannachan (Billy), and disc producer Douglas Weir. Also included is a featurette with Forsyth talking about filmmaking to school audiences, further interviews with Forsyth and Grogan, a Q&A from a showing at the BFI with Sinclair, Grogan, and Hepburn, some of Tully’s alternate and unused music set to a gallery of film stills (a wonderful feature), and the American theatrical trailer. A final extra is the version of the film that was released in US theatres, with dubbing especially for that market. A booklet is also included that features excellent contemporary and archival writing on the film.

Gregory’s Girl is an absolute classic coming-of-age picture that belongs with all the usual suspects, and the BFI have done it justice, especially with the new restoration that really makes it pop. Insert football-related victory pun here.

Gregory’s Girl is out now on 4K UHD and Blu-ray from the BFI.

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