Gregory's Two Girls

UK/Germany 1999

Reviewed by Edward Lawrenson


Our synopses give away the plot in full, including surprise twists.

Cumbernauld, Scotland, the present. English teacher Greg Underwood has begun to have erotic fantasies about 16-year-old Frances. When she tells him that she'd like to arrange a meeting with him, Greg assumes her intentions are romantic. Obsessed with Frances, Greg ignores the advances of his fellow teacher Bel. At an assignation with Frances, Greg is disappointed when she turns up with her schoolfriend Douglas and explains the reason for the meeting: believing local businessman Fraser Rowan to be manufacturing and exporting torture equipment, Frances and Douglas want Greg to help them get some work experience in Rowan's factory to gather evidence. Despite his reluctance, Greg visits Rowan, an old friend, and arranges placements for the two youngsters.

Greg continues meeting Frances outside school hours. Discovering this, Frances' father reports Greg to the police, but Greg lies himself out of trouble. Later, Frances introduces him to Dimitri, a human-rights activist who convinces Greg of Rowan's involvement in the torture trade. Frances, Douglas and Greg sneak into Rowan's factory where they collect examples of banned torture equipment. Greg goes to Bel's flat to tell her about his eventful night; they end up making love. Greg takes the evidence to a civil servant's in Edinburgh, but is bound to silence by top-ranking officials. Nevertheless, Greg and Frances follow a van full of Rowan's latest torture devices to Stranvaar, where the goods are to be exported. Greg and Frances hijack the van and dump its load into the sea.


There are several powerful resonances produced by the 19-year gap between Gregory's Girl and this, its belated sequel. Writer-director Bill Forsyth incorporates some of them into the film's narrative texture: the new town Cumbernauld, for instance, where both films were shot, doesn't look so new any more. Its once-pristine white-washed modernity is now flaky and dirty grey with age - an apt reflection of Greg's stagnant circumstances. But most of all, what Forsyth's long-delayed follow-up to Gregory's Girl, his breakthrough film, leaves you thinking is how long it's been since he's had a hit. (His last directing credit was for the disastrous Robin Williams vehicle Being Human in 1994.)

Forsyth seems understandably weary of simply tapping into and recycling the success of Gregory's Girl, although Gregory's Two Girls evokes the original from its opening shot. In a changing-room similar to the one where the teenage Gregory had his first few gauche exchanges with Dorothy, Frances appears kitted out, like Dorothy, in football gear. But when the scene is revealed to be the product of Greg's erotic imagination (he's soon having sex with Frances on a pile of gym mats) the mood of gentle tribute quickly sours as we find this is literally the stuff wet dreams are made of.

From Greg's teenage incarnation, lost in adolescent longing, to Mac, the US businessman of Local Hero, beguiled into forgetfulness about his life back home by the charms of a Highland village, Forsyth has always had a rather tolerant attitude to the wistful dreams of his lead characters. But here, he means us to disapprove of the fanciful shell Greg inhabits. The film's final shot - of electronic equipment (components for torture devices) vandalised by Greg and strewn on a rocky beach - echoes the image of Mac's digital watch lost in a pool of sea water in Local Hero. But where Mac's watch was symbolic of his increasingly tenuous purchase on a world he knows he must return to (his job, his home), the beached computers in Gregory's Two Girls signify Greg's belated involvement in the realities of political action after years of armchair utopianism (he watches videotapes of Noam Chomsky to relax).

The trouble with Gregory's Two Girls, however, is that it is far more involving when Greg is at his most adolescent and unworldly than when he attains maturity. Adeptly played by John Gordon-Sinclair, gawky and awkward as ever, Greg - still unable to concentrate in class - remains effectively unchanged from the first film. Forsyth might be making a point about his emotional immaturity, evident in the flicker of relish on his face when he refuses to open his door for Bel's drunken midnight heart-to-heart. But then his progression into messier adult realities is either too neat or too convoluted ever to engage us. Bel, despite Maria Doyle Kennedy's fulsome performance, comes across as little more than a pliant stooge to Greg's myriad insecurities ("You don't want your hole?" she asks at one point). Meanwhile, the industrial-espionage subplot drags on interminably. Almost despite himself, Forsyth can't quite seem to shake off his sympathies for the dreamy, naive Greg of old, and with the exception of a few dark touches Gregory's Two Girls comes alive only when luxuriating in nostalgia.


Christopher Young
Bill Forsyth
Director of Photography
John de Borman
John Gow
Production Designer
Andy Harris
Michael Gibbs
©Film Four Ltd
Production Companies
FilmFour in association with The Scottish Arts Council National Lottery Fund and Kinowelt Filmproduktion present a Young Lake production for FilmFour
Line Producer
Alan J. Wands
Production Co-ordinator
Alison Campbell
Location Manager
Brian Kaczynski
Foreign Location Co-ordinator
Manu Kurewa
Assistant Directors
David Gilchrist
Claire Hughes
Harry Boyd
2nd Unit:
Tommy Gormley
Script Supervisor
Janis Watt
Susie Figgis
Nina Gold
Aileen Ritchie
Mari Binnie
Stephen Docherty
Steven Duffy
2nd Unit Cameraman
Paul Herley
Susan Leitch
Art Director
Stephen Wong
Frances Connell
Costume Designer
Kate Carin
Wardrobe Supervisor
Margie Fortune
Make-up Designer
Christine Cant
Make-up Artist
Sara Kramer
Peerless Camera Company
"If I Loved You" by Astrid Williamson, performed by Astrid; "Flower of Scotland" by Roy Williamson; "Gracias a la vida" by Violeta Parra
Sound Mixer
Louis Kramer
Re-recording Mixers
David Old
Stuart Hilliker
Sound Editor
Douglas Mcdougall
Peter Geaves
Animal Trainer
Dave Stewart
John Gordon-Sinclair
Gregory Underwood
Dougray Scott
Fraser Rowan
Maria Doyle Kennedy
Kevin Anderson
Martin Schwab
Fiona Bell
Maddy Underwood
Carly McKinnon
Hugh McCue
John Murtagh
Alexander Morton
Norman, teacher
William Harkness
Albert Coulson
bus driver
Paul Birchard
American executive
Simon Huh
Asian executive
Dawn Steele
Constanzo Cacace
Italian restauranteur
Gary Lewis
Mr McCance
Anne Kidd
headmaster's secretary
Matt Costello
Detective Gorrie
Jane Stabler
Detective Ritchie
Stewart Preston
assistant headmaster
Anne Marie Timony
Dougie Robertson
Jonathan Hackett
Deere, government official
Bruce Byron
Telfor, government official
Steven Clelland
minicab driver
Marc Carapiet
Jim Creighton
Rowan's bodyguards
Sadie Miller
Bel's neighbour
Douglas Robertson
Michael O'Brien
Rowan's van drivers
Karen Sinclair
Amanda Malcolm
Alex Reape
Stephen Duguid
Kirstie Anderson
Isobel Melville
Nicole Strachan
Greg Lloyd
Dawn Henderson
Sara Kellie
Greg's pupils
Gillian Alexis Lloyde
Lois MacKenzie
Suzanne Craig
Vivienne Henderson
Jane Coleman
Aisling Friel
Nadia Coia
Julie Quinn
Janine Sheridan
the Rowan girls
Gabriel Alhucema
Americo Alhucema
Angela Alhucema
Pamela Alvarez
Hugo Alvarez
Esther Fernandez Araque
Hernando Fernandez Araque
G. Mandela Fernandez Araque
Aimara Reques
Eliana Roditis Ritchie
Gabriel Smith-Reques
Patricia Toledo-Knothe
Chilean families
Amu Logotse
Suzanne Bonnar
Nkuli Zikalala
Clare Robertson
Tina Clark
Rozalie Montlouis-Gabriel
Chas Fraser
E.M. Valentine
African band
Film Four Distributors
10,453 feet
116 minutes 9 seconds
In Colour
Last Updated: 20 Dec 2011