Blu-ray Review: Gregory’s Girl

Starring: John Gordon-Sinclair, Clare Grogan
Director: Bill Forsyth
Rating: 9/10

Hailed as pitch-perfect when it was first released in 1981, Bill Forsyth’s cosily charming comedy now makes its appearance on Blu-ray. But can Gregory’s Girl still put it in the back of the net all these years on?

His school soccer team having lost eight matches in a row, gangly Gregory finds himself demoted to goalie while the coach starts looking for fresh talent. When the new recruit turns out to be a girl, Gregory is instantly smitten. “Sweep her off her feet,” one of his friends recommends, “Oh, I forgot, you’re the goalkeeper, she’s the sweeper.” But he has his work cut out as she becomes an instant sensation: “I want to interview you and that girl in 2A who had the triplets,” says an excited reporter from the school newspaper. Time to take some advice from his ten-year-old sister: “So I should think less about love and more about colours?”

Watching it now, it’s a film that leaves you with mixed feelings. On the one hand, its virtues are self-evident. Not only are there some great lines and whimsical, near-surreal vignettes, but this is also one of those exceptionally rare films where even the smallest of roles comes effortlessly to life (for another movie where this is true in something like the same degree I find myself casting my mind back to Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes and The 39 Steps). On top of that, it has the perfect leading man in the form of the endearingly shambolic John Gordon-Sinclair, who does the shy, sensitive and awkward bit very well but also makes Gregory funny, sarcastic and self-aware in a thoroughly believable way.

On the other hand, though, its depiction of teenage girls as mature, level-headed and warmly supportive of one another (the movie is, among other things, an unpretentious celebration of feminism) now seems well meaning but over-gallant and a touch condescending. (Nor do they get a great deal of screen time, not even the very engaging Clare Grogan, who went from actress to pop star when she became the lead singer of indie band Altered Images.) You also can’t help wondering what modern youngsters make of it in these post-Skins days of designer drugs and sexting. But then again, were things ever as innocent as they appear in Gregory’s Girl? After all, the ’80s were an era of glue-sniffing and unemployment, but neither of these spectres trouble the rather spruce new town through which Forsyth’s school kids wander. Yet maybe, now as then, its very sweetness of outlook is what makes it so refreshing.

Even the biggest fans of the movie must be wondering whether this a film they need to own on Blu-ray, so you’ll be delighted to hear than this HD restoration by Pinewood Studios is an absolute corker. What always used to seem like rather a dowdy and scrubby film now looks fresh, clean and crisp. Fleshtones have wonderful fidelity, the quilting on all those ’80s puffa jackets is plump and glossy and there’s a rich, deep sheen to Clare Grogan’s bob. It’s the kind of transformation we’ve been led to expect from Blu-ray but rarely get.

As well as an audio commentary with the director and film critic Mark Kermode, the extras include a catch-up with Clare Grogan, who explains what it was like to go on a huge promotional tour for the film, and a 20-minute interview with Forsyth, who talks in an extremely articulate way about the filmmaking process and describes his early attempts to get Gregory’s Girl off the ground and his work with the Glasgow Youth Theatre from which many of the actors in the movie came.

Gregory’s Girl on Blu-ray? Score!

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