CAST: Eve Austin, Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham, Rona Morison, Marli Siu, Kate Dickie, David Hayman, Martin Quinn, Chris Fulton, Jack Greenlees, Myra McFadyen, Jay Newton, Megan Shandley
RUNNING TIME: 105 mins
BASICALLY…: A group of Catholic school girls head to Edinburgh for a choir competition, where they’d rather party than sing…
NOW FOR THE REVIEW…
It’s about time that Catholic school girls had a sex comedy to call their own. So often has the image of young ladies parading about in their draconian school uniforms and skirts dominated the male sexual fantasy, but Our Ladies – overseen, ironically, by predominantly male talent, including director and co-writer Michael Caton-Jones – puts the ball(s) back in the girls’ court, allowing them to engage in one raunchy situation after another in the same way that their guy-driven counterparts like American Pie and Porky’s were once able to do.
There’s no pie-humping in Our Ladies, though, and it’s all the better for it. This is a sex comedy that’s far more interested in the dynamics and unbreakable relationships between its horny lead characters rather than the gross-out gags (of which there are very few, save for some shocking full-frontal male nudity, and an unfortunate sink incident), and because of that it feels so much more genuine and heart-felt, especially as the characters themselves are a lot of fun to watch and root for.
Set in 1996, the film is focused on the students of an all-girls Catholic school in the Scottish Highlands town of Fort William, specifically the choir members who have been selected to perform at a competition in Edinburgh. Our six would-be sopranos include Orla (Tallulah Greive) who’s recently spent time in Lourdes for her miraculous battle against leukaemia, Finnoula (Abigail Lawrie) who is hiding her own desires from her boy-hungry associates, Chell (Rona Morison) whose taste for wild partying hides a personal tragedy, Manda (Sally Messham) who exudes liveliness despite her own insecurities, Kylah (Marli Siu) who can be devious and wildly outspoken, and Kay (Eve Austin) the squeaky-clean and affluent head girl who is, of course, hiding some rather scandalous secrets of her own. Almost none of the girls, however, really care about winning the choir competition; they are eager to spend as much time in Edinburgh drinking, shagging, and seeing to their own personal affairs as possible, so long as they’re back in time to actually perform and please their ambitious choir director Sister Condrum (Kate Dickie), often referred to as “Sister Condom” by the rowdy young ladies.
Like with last year’s standout Rocks, there is a strong sense of young female camaraderie in Our Ladies that is often overlooked by large areas of society, in this case the notion that young teen girls can have as much of a sex drive as boys can. There are several instances where our main group is openly bragging with each other about recent sexual conquests, sharing intimate details about what their kinks might be (one of the girls hopes for a bit of bondage during their first time), and playfully flirting with almost every guy (young or old) that comes across their path, and not once does the film shame them for their overt behaviour. After all, to give young women like the ones in this film a hard time for expressing their sexuality would not just be massively hypocritical of us all, given the successes of American Pie and The Inbetweeners which more or less gave its young male protagonists a free pass for their crass attitudes, but would also serve as a harmful denial of the truth that teen girls have the capacity to determine their own sexual freedoms as much as anyone else, a fact that is firmly celebrated in this film. Granted, given the predominant male voices that are in charge of the script and filmmaking, it’s hard to determine whether this is truly an honest depiction of young female sexuality or just a man’s idea of what it is, but you can at least tell that there is a strong attempt to replicate it as much as possible, enough to where it does feel natural and realistic enough to come across as genuine.
The characters also have real weight to them and defy certain gender stereotypes to shine through as legitimately three-dimensional people. Each one of these young women, from the more angelic characters like Orla and Kay, to the rowdier ones like Chell and Manda, do not completely fall into their respective categories, for there are moments where the seemingly innocent members of the group share some very explicit stories and fantasies, while the more rambunctious ladies provide some of the film’s biggest and most surprising heartfelt moments. The six central performances from each of these relatively unknown young actresses are quite impressive, for they nail each one of their individual personalities and make them incredibly fun to watch, even when they’re at their most devious (it is sadistic pleasure, for example, to see Marli Siu’s Kylah in a flashback worm her way into a job at Woolworths by effectively ruining the life of one worker). It’s hard to nail down which one is the standout, because the whole ensemble does some rather fine work that should put them in strong positions for roles in the future.
There is more than enough warmth, humour, heart and a rather awesome 90s soundtrack to mask some of the film’s noticeable filmmaking blunders. A scene set in HMV is filled with anachronisms, including displays of Amy Winehouse and Adele records in the background despite this being 1996, which doesn’t ruin the film necessarily but does strike as odd that a film which is otherwise very in tune with its main decade could miss something as blatant as that in their supposed attention to detail. The pacing also goes a little off the rails in the final act, where it keeps going for at least twenty more minutes after a logical ending point, and makes the film feel partially longer than it perhaps needed to be.
Again, none of that exactly ruins the experience of watching Our Ladies, a fun and gleeful display of teenage misbehaviour that offers some good-natured friendship amongst the booze-soaked debauchery, and while not as sophisticated or as well-rounded as last year’s Rocks it has its own brand of charm and sweetness that makes certain other tales of teen friendship seem even more immature by comparison.
SO, TO SUM UP…
Our Ladies is a fun and often refreshing look at young female friendships and sexuality, which refuses to categorise or condemn its spirited and three-dimensional characters for their wild and overt behaviour, and allows them to engage in some humorous and heart-felt encounters that ring true enough for a teen audience.