Quick Synopsis: A school choir drinks and flirts their way through 1996 Edinburgh in this beautiful coming of age story based on an Alan Warner book.
I should preface this by pointing out the obvious: I don’t think I’m the main audience for this. This may surprise you, but I did not go to a Scottish Catholic school for girls in the 90s so I don’t know what that experience was like. But when a film is good enough, it transcends those social boundaries, it’s why I still love films like The Duff or Tomorrowland. With this…..I feel it went slightly against it. I felt a definite disconnect between myself and the film.
That might have been due to the directing. Caton-Jones has a lot of experience and is obviously talented as his filmography shows. But I feel this didn’t seem like his story to tell. He has done similar films before, thinking specifically of Urban Hymn. But with this there’s just a few moments where it doesn’t quite feel personal enough. The film has moments which should be emotional and really hit you, but for whatever reason they don’t and I can’t quite figure out why.
Maybe that is because you are always aware that it’s a film about female sexuality that’s definitely from a male gaze. The only consequence of sex seeming to be pregnancy. Where older men ply schoolgirls with alcohol and take them home, and this is seen as a comedic setpiece. Even when they go to the police and talk about being robbed by a guy who they met in a whorehouse (that they didn’t know was a whorehouse) the noncommittal response of the police is played for comedy as opposed to the frustration and slight horror it should have. The film also struggles comedically in one or two moments. There are lines which are structurally jokes, but you feel there really should have been something funnier there (one of which is in the trailer).
There are also some issues with timing, the dramatic changing of locations make it seem more episodic than a film should be. You can almost feel the “next time on…” breaks at certain points in the film. I say this a lot but I feel this would have been better if it was a series. It wouldn’t have required a prohibitively large budget. The moments where characters are split up and have their own adventures could have been given an episode each character. It also would have meant the fireworks part near the end would have seemed more like a finale than it currently does.
Those are smallish issues though. It is still a really fun watch. That’s mainly down to the dynamic between the characters. You feel the friendship between the group and scenes where they just sit around talking shit are delightful, made so by both the performances and the dialogue. There are a lot of genuine laughs and there’s a real sense of joy that goes through the film, you will spend a lot of time with a smile on your face.
It also does a great job of setting the time. It really FEELS like a 90s film. If it was a 90s film, it is one with some moments which wouldn’t have aged well though, specifically a scene where the main characters (who I should remind you, are schoolgirls) flash truck drivers. Yeah, bit awkward. Does take you away from the film slightly, but not too much. Still a film that’s well worth watching. Maybe you don’t need to see it at the cinema though. But when it comes out on DVD and you can get it as part of a deal with another film, check it out. The best thing I can say about it is it automatically makes you want to call up your friends and hang out with them like you used to. It gives you a really personal nostalgia, and that’s wonderful.