Receiving its world premiere at the BFI London Film Festival this weekend, Michael Caton-Jones’s adaptation of Alan Warner’s cult 1998 novel The Sopranos has gone from being a contemporary coming-of-age film to a period piece in the 20 years he’s spent trying to get it made.
Our Ladies, BFI London Film Festival
3 stars ***
But having literally put the finishing touches to it last Wednesday, its freshly minted arrival feels oddly appropriate.
Save for the absence of mobile phones and the prominence of CDs in this 1990s-set tale of six Catholic choir girls from Fort William who use a singing competition in Edinburgh as an excuse to go on a vodka-fuelled odyssey, the film keeps period nostalgia mostly in check in order to focus on the always-relevant dilemmas of its hormonally charged protagonists.
It helps that Caton-Jones’s facility with young actors has resulted in a vibrant cast of newcomers in the lead roles.
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Collectively and individually, Marli Siu, Eve Austin, Tallulah Greive, Abigail Lawrie, Sally Messham and Rona Morison imbue their characters’ brazen behaviour with a matter-of-fact vitality and believability consistent with Warner’s prose-style.
That’s important too because this is a much broader adaptation of his work than Lynne Ramsay’s artful adaptation of his debut novel, Morvern Callar.
At times closer in tone to a raunchy teen comedy that’s had its edges blunted by over-familiarity, some of the comic set-pieces do fall a little flat, especially the girls’ various encounters with lecherous men.
But some of it’s really funny too and, ultimately, there’s a real poignancy and sweetness to the way the film never loses sight of the girls’ joie de vivre: they understand the limitations facing them, which only intensifies their noble quest to have a good time while they can.