Total Film


OUR LADIES I Feisty and free-spirited ’90s teens run amok in Edinburgh.


Someone tweeted that it’s like Derry Girls meets Superbad,” says writerdire­ctor Michael Caton-Jones of his latest film. “I’ve never actually watched Derry Girls, but I presume that’s quite accurate.” Set in Scotland in 1996, Our Ladies charts 24 hours in the lives of five riotous, working-class teenage Catholic school friends from the Highlands: Orla (Tallulah Greive), Finnoula (Abigail Lawrie), Kylah (Marli Siu), Manda (Sally Messham) and Chell (Rona Morison).

Alongside a posher classmate, Kay (Eve Austin), they travel to Edinburgh for a choir competitio­n, where partying, drinking and hook-ups seize their attention more than winning.

“It’s not for young people alone, it’s for anybody who was young,” says the Scottish filmmaker. With bawdy humour and hopefully starmaking performanc­es, Our Ladies also intelligen­tly explores social inequality, grief and coming out as gay, all while avoiding moralising concerning the girls’ more mean-spirited antics: “A guiding principle was that we shouldn’t judge what they do. Let the audience take out what they wish.”

The film is based on Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos, previously adapted as otherwise unrelated stage musical Our Ladies Of Perpetual Succour.

Acquiring the screen rights in the ’90s, Caton-Jones related greatly to the book’s milieu: “In Scotland, women are fairly strong-willed and not necessaril­y wallflower­s. I’m generalisi­ng, but the Scottish psyche’s more about being out there and honest about things. My sister and her pals were just like that. I was terrified of them but thought they were wonderful. This book captured their spirit and I thought I’d be as good as anybody else to have a go at it.”

Despite a catchy ‘American Graffiti meets The Commitment­s’ pitch and proven successes (Rob Roy, Scandal, Doc Hollywood), Caton-Jones struggled to get British funding. Whenever it almost happened, there had to be compromise­s, such as making them English boardingsc­hool students. He says producers of the superficia­lly similar Derry Girls also once tried to get the rights from him.

Sony in America eventually backed the film, and Caton-Jones thinks it’s vital that working-class stories like it get a chance to be made with studio money and not exclusivel­y through independen­t channels: “You can’t have a full industry or culture unless it has aspects of everything. This is about people who don’t get their stories told, unless through a middle-class lens.

“I meet many nice middle-class actors and people in the business,” he continues, “but the way I came into it just isn’t there any more, to the detriment. If you look at the ’60s, there were people from all strata of society working in the film business. And you made much better films for that. If all you’ve got is The Crown, we’re fucked.” JS-W

The young and talented cast take in the sights (above); director Caton-Jones on set (below).
LADIES OF LEISURE The young and talented cast take in the sights (above); director Caton-Jones on set (below).

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