If you’re a fan of Derry Girls, you’ll enjoy Our Ladies. It’s a similar premise: a group of sexually frustrated schoolgirls from a catholic upbringing go on the hunt for men. And there are similarly slim pickings. However, Michael Caton-Jones’s film swaps the Irish border for the remote Scottish town of Fort William, following the sex-starved friends as they take their search further afield to Edinburgh under the guise of a holier-than-thou choir competition.
Both Celtic comedies drill into the rich vein that is the battle between sexual freedom and religious condemnation, but while the sitcom scratches the surface, this feature delves deeper into the true cost of repression. We deal with closeted homosexuality, concealed pregnancy; but even the film’s meaning is buried, hidden masterfully in the subtext. As the girls enter the houses of odd and eccentric strangers, hilarious scenarios unfold. And yet, threats lurk around every corner: the girls are young and vulnerable, at the mercy of the men who take them in. The director asks whether forbidding teenage exploration puts the girls in greater danger. Surely better out in the open than behind closed doors?
Indeed, shots of sweeping Scottish scenery are a fitting testimony to “the land of the free”. But in this film, the stars outshine the sprawling landscape. All six of our “ladies” – the ever-optimistic Orla (Tallulah Greive), our sassy lead singer Kylah (Marli Siu), smart-mouthed Finnoula (Abigail Lawrie), Manda (Sally Messham), Chell (Rona Morison) and head girl Kay (Eve Austin) – stand luminous on lock shores and city steps alike, first looking forwards towards their futures in flowing white dresses, then confronting us head-on in skimpy clubwear, seizing the present moment. Greive leads the story in strength and spirit, her character’s vivacity radiant even in the face of her leukaemia. The other particularly strong story thread is that of Lawrie and Austin, whose relationship goes from toxic to touching as the former proves herself just as much an outsider as the latter.
Our Ladies serenades us with a show of female solidarity but also studies the damage done by denying girls the space to spread their wings.
Our Ladies is released in select cinemas on 27th August 2021.
Watch the trailer for Our Ladies here: