Scottish director Bill Forsyth's new film Gregory's Two Girls is on general release. By choosing to make a belated sequel to his 1981 film, Forsyth has taken a calculated risk. The original Gregory's Girl was a gem of a film. It was a story about working class teenagers set in the new town of Cumbernauld on the outskirts of Glasgow. It made Forsyth's name as an accomplished film maker. He went on to make the whimsical Local Hero and the much underrated Comfort and Joy.
The good news is that Forsyth's latest film is well worth seeing. Made on a modest budget with local actors, it is fresh, highly personal and very funny. Forsyth's writing and direction are as tender and vivid as ever. But the film has a broader canvas than the original. It tackles a very topical and controversial subject – Britain's arms trade and the violation of human rights.
Unusually for a Forsyth film, Gregory's Two Girls wears its politics on its sleeve. Intentionally or otherwise, it's a good antidote to the 'new politics' of the Scottish Parliament. There are wry comments which poke fun at Scottish parochialism, while Scotland's political and business establishment are portrayed for what they are – greedy, two faced bastards.
The hero of the story is Gregory Underwood – the loveable, hapless schoolboy from the original film. Gregory is now single and in his mid-30s. But while he may have grown older, he hasn't matured much. In the older Gregory we see how behaviour that is charming and innocent in a teenage boy becomes irritating and amoral in the older man.
While teaching colleague Bella is firmly stuck on him, Gregory dreams about one of his 16 year old pupils. His dilemma provides real tension and some hilariously embarrassing moments. Despite his weaknesses, Gregory is overwhelmingly decent and doesn't like the ill divided world he inhabits. He is particularly opposed to US imperialism and is a big fan of Noam Chomsky.
The trouble with Gregory is that he can never actually commit himself into doing something about the real injustices that surround him. That is until Frances, his school student object of desire, takes his radical ideas seriously. She starts collecting damning information on a local employer, who is a an old school friend of Gregory. Rowan Allan has become a Silicon Glen millionaire by exploiting local female labour. He has grabbed lucrative government subsidies for the secret manufacture of high-tech equipment for Third World dictators.
Gregory is forced by Frances to confront his complacency, and in doing so rediscovers the courage of his convictions. There are quite a few scrapes and laughs along the way. The film is not flawless but Forsyth deserves credit for making it. Gregory's Two Girls is a testimony to youthful idealism and is a mature, tender and funny film. Don't miss it.