After optioning Alan Warner’s cult 1998 novel The Sopranos more than 20-years-ago, Michael Caton-Jones finally brings his adaptation to the big-screen and it proves well worth the wait. Jones’ coming-of-ager is a sharply-written treat which balances its laughs and more serious beats effectively and is bolstered by six brilliant female performances at its centre.
Set in 1990s Scotland, Our Ladies follows the escapades of a group of Catholic schoolgirls from Fort William who see a choir competition trip to Edinburgh as the perfect chance to drink, party and hook up. With 24 hours until the competition, the girls glam up and hit the town to explore what the big city has to offer. Caton-Jones brilliantly captures the delight of being young, free and passionate as the girls explore Edinburgh, meeting some interesting characters along the way. But amid the girls’ hunt for alcohol and men, divisions start to form in the group and weighty truths come to the surface.
Our Ladies’ strongest component are the honest and funny female performances at its core. Central to the story are leukaemia survivor Orla (Tallulah Greive), who is determined to lose her virginity, as well as cynical teen Fionnula (Abigail Lawrie), who begins to question her sexuality when she grows close to former rival and head girl Kay (Eve Austin). Confident singer Kylah (Marli Siu), sassy joker Manda (Sally Messham) and sexually experienced Chell (Rona Morison) make up the rest of the rebellious crew.
This dynamic cast of young women, many for whom this is their film debut, create an impressively authentic camaraderie which endears you instantly to the characters despite their rough edges. Each of the ensemble brings bags of enthusiasm, charm and humour, making all of their characters feel distinctly individual. Fionnula and Kay’s plotline is a particular highlight, their growing connection towards each other is relayed in a number of tender moments and is brilliantly portrayed by Lawrie and Austin. When the plot runs a little thin in the film’s third act, Our Ladies gets by on the back of the girls’ infectious energy and warmth.
While Our Ladies’ coming-of-age plot doesn’t break any new ground, the film does perceptively touch on issues of sexuality, class inequality, teenage pregnancy and even terminal illness. These more serious discussions are adroitly offset against Caton-Jones’ witty script which gives each of the character space to shine in a number of comical scenarios.
Bolstered by a cast who share a scintillating chemistry, Caton-Jones’ Our Ladies portrays the vibrant and nuanced nature of girlhood in hilarious and moving ways.