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A Very Special Film,
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This review is from: Gregory's Girl [DVD]  (DVD)
I saw Gregory's Girl when it was first released in the early 1980's as part of a double-bill with Chariots of Fire. I quite liked it, but it wasn't really what I was expecting. I watched it again recently on the television, and now my view has changed: for me this may well be the best film ever made. Like Local Hero, which has long been on my all time top 5 list, it touches things within me that only a very small number of films, books or pieces of music do.
On the face of it, it's nothing special. A low-budget film about teenagers, by a previously unknown director, set in an unremarkable town in Scotland. A simple story - barely a story at all - which has been done many times before and since. Little in the way of character development or jokes. A soundtrack which ignores the New Wave of British music, then at its height, in favour of free-form jazz-funk.
But somehow, from this unpromising mix, emerges the most wonderful piece of film-making. Much has been written about its subtle, observational humour, and the closer you look, the more achingly funny it becomes. But at the same time I have no problem in admitting that it makes me cry. Not tears of self-pity or sadness, just a reaction to the swell of emotion brought on by the profoundly touching last 20 minutes, as Gregory is steered away from his hopeless obsession with the unattainable Dorothy. In a film packed with glorious scenes and moments, the first time we see Susan in her beret waiting by the phone-box is the one that crowns them all.
It's also a film packed with wonderful lines. Here are just a few of my favourites:
"Ten years old, and with the body of a woman of thirteen."
"The nicest part is just before you taste it. Your mouth goes all tingly. But that can't go on for ever."
"Under-age walks. Dates. You'll run out of vices before you're twelve if you don't slow down."
"What we'll do is, we'll just walk and talk. And we don't even need to talk that much either. We'll just see how it goes."
Why do I love Gregory's Girl so much? For many reasons - as the Radio Times Guides to Films says, it is a "near-faultless piece of film-making." But if I had to pick one thing, it would be the way it speaks so eloquently, and with such warm understanding, of feelings that dominated my every waking moment during my own teenage years - specifically the aching desire for a girlfriend combined with a total lack of any idea about how to get one. I think this was all too close to home when I first saw the film - memories of ridiculous and painful obsessions with girls I never spoke to were too fresh in my mind. Perhaps you have to be nearly fifty and a little more battered by life to really understand it.
If you've ever found love confusing and compelling, or if you've ever been smitten with somebody way out of reach, I think you will love this very special film.