Written and directed by Michael Caton-Jones, co-written by Alan Sharp, in 1990s Scotland, a group of Catholic school girls get an opportunity to go into Edinburgh for a choir competition, but they’re more interested in drinking, partying and hooking up than winning the competition. Starring: Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Rona Morison, Sally Messham, Marli Siu, Eve Austin and Kate Dickie.
There’s a higher standard slowly appearing for films surrounding teen women, set off by films like Booksmart, Lady Bird and The Edge of Seventeen, audiences can no longer be fobbed off with stereotypical portrayals of young women. Our Ladies feels nicely aware of that change, especially in how thirsty its ladies are. It accepts what few do, that teen girls think about sex plenty and brings it to the screen without becoming sleazy, cheap or being used to add a transparent ‘sexy’ edge to its characters, which is refreshing. Each of the characters have unique personalities and individual interests as well as all being relatable and sympathetic. Their friendship is a typical dynamic but it’s given a fresh spin with their independent traits. Eve Austin’s Kay stands out particularly in upending stereotypes and coming out of her shell spectacularly. The writing throughout is a hugely consistent style, it’s smart, cheeky, funny and has a big heart.
Caton-Jones’s direction is almost a tourism ad for Scotland, not only is it stunning but also has an unexpected metaphorical edge. In contrast with its very youthful and energetic style, it adds in the occasional wistful or pensive shot sidestepping reality, giving it a larger sincerity and depth to the emotions at work. It’s an unusual addition for this type of film but it works well. Caton-Jones creates a balance of their vibrancy and vulnerability, it builds up a fast energy to embrace their chaos but slows in their more thoughtful moments. It holds a great amount of colour and is well paced to keep your attention throughout.
There’s strong casting work at play here, these young actresses make for a fantastic ensemble. Each and every one of them bring layers to their characters, they’re easy to watch and all add a touching element to their stories. Particularly Austin and Lawrie, watching their friendship blossom is something special, it deals with sexual identity thoughtfully and gracefully, without becoming over-serious. Outside of that, there’s nothing to single them out because they all give brilliant performances and work beautifully together, there’s not a single fleck of anything unconvincing.
Our Ladies is a superb example of modern teen film, giving a female perspective without falling into all the usual clichés. It’s funny and easy going but also has a genuine depth to offer. The performances are top notch, bringing those extra layers but never losing its big, lively energy. Michael Caton-Jones’s direction is a glowing recommendation to visit Scotland and one of the few male directors in recent years who’s managed to convincingly capture female friendship. It’s smart, touching, relatable and hugely enjoyable.