It’s taken 20 years for Michael Caton-Jones to bring his adaptation of Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos to the big screen – and it’s worth the wait. It’s already had a second life as a stage musical adaptation, and it’s easy to see why this ballsy coming-of-age comedy drama won devoted fans.
Our Ladies is at its strongest when it leaves storytelling in the hands of its young, talented cast. It is unflinching and non-judgemental about the girls’ fully embraced sexuality, unsentimental about poverty and unimpressed by wealth. And it’s the sheer vitality of the cast – particularly Marli Siu’s Kylah, belting Buzzcocks with the kind of self-contained swagger only a teenage girl can – that makes that work. The plot points are necessarily predictable, so it’s all in the delivery. And deliver they do.
The script delights in lashings of salty dialogue, and although the richest characterisation is saved for the girls, the catalogue of grotesquely predatory men they meet on their adventures is nicely turned out. Kate Dickie’s stern Sister Condron is also the perfect foil; repressive but never one-note. And mid-90’s Scotland is elegantly realised – introduced in the film’s incongruous, tongue-in-cheek, Outlander-esque prologue as a time before social media.
For all the glorious choral harmonies, there’s the odd off-key moment. There’s some tonal confusion around Tallulah Greive’s Orla, who is in recovery from leukaemia, and whose illness is treated with a reverential mawkishness compared to the handling of sexual identity, teen pregnancy and aspiration in a classist world. Her experiences are necessarily out of step with her peers, but at times it almost feels like she’s positioned as coming from another world.
Still, Our Ladies packs in enough warm exuberance and blunt humour to weather the odd dose of sentimentality. It’s a welcome addition to the growing catalogue of female-focussed teen films, and its late arrival makes it a welcome chaser to Olivia Wilde’s brilliant Booksmart.
CAST: Kate Dickie, Tallulah Greive, Marli Siu, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison, Eve Austin
DIRECTOR: Michael Caton-Jones
WRITERS: Michael Caton-Jones (script), Alan Sharp (script), Alan Warner (novel)
SYNOPSIS: In the mid-90s, a Scottish Catholic school choir takes a day trip from Fort William to Edinburgh for a competition, giving the girls the perfect opportunity to explore the delights of the big city.