Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB
United Kingdom, 1980. Lake Films, National Film Finance Corporation, Scottish Television. Screenplay by Bill Forsyth. Cinematography by Michael Coulter. Produced by Davina Belling, Clive Parsons. Music by Colin Tully. Production Design by Adrienne Atkinson. Costume Design by Nadia Arthur. Film Editing by John Gow.
There’s no shortage of coming-of-age tales about teenage boys reaching maturity the hard way, but they are rarely made with the sensitivity and affection that Bill Forsyth brings to this wonderful film. Gregory is a teenager who is dealing with the awkward gait of a recent growth spurt and the recent realization that he cares a great deal about girls. The ideal focus of his energy is Dorothy, who has joined his football team after his coach put out a call for new players to help the team break their losing streak. The coach resists having a girl on the team, but she turns out to be the best player the school has ever had and might lead them to victory, which is exciting to everyone except Gregory, who focuses solely on wooing her (and, among his more endearing qualities, Gregory also doesn’t seem to mind that he can’t play goalie to save his life). He tries learning Italian after she mentions how much she loves the language, he improves the way he dresses and, in the film’s warmest and most cherishable scenes, consults his little sister Madeleine for tips on investigating the female psyche. Forsyth’s love for his subject prevents him from punishing Gregory for his blind spots, he’s too young to notice that he’s never focused on Dorothy herself as a person, just on her as a goal. Our hero is given a chance for redemption in the delightful ending when he has the courage to ask her Dorothy on a date; when that date doesn’t turn out as expected and he handles the reality (and irony) served up to him with good-natured aplomb, we know we have spent our time focusing on the right young person. Deservedly a cult classic since its release, this is a film with no groundbreaking revelations to offer about life, but gets by on pure charm and doles it out generously for its entire running time.