Six lessons Scottish films teach us about romance

SCOTTISH films aren't all urban grit or tartan sentimentality '“ look beyond the clichés and some universal themes about love emerge, writes Chris McCall
John Gordon Sinclair's character in Gregory's Girl discovered love can be found where you least expect itJohn Gordon Sinclair's character in Gregory's Girl discovered love can be found where you least expect it
John Gordon Sinclair's character in Gregory's Girl discovered love can be found where you least expect it

1. It’s okay to date your boss

The close friendship between Queen Victoria and John Brown, a ghillie employed at her Balmoral estate, is a matter of record. While it has never been proved the two became anything more, rumours they secretly married were once rife among polite society. The late 19th century romance was brought to life on the big screen in 1997’s Mrs Brown, starring Judi Dench as the everyone’s favourite dour monarch and Billy Connolly as her servant/bidey-in. Mr Brown might have been surprisingly Glaswegian-sounding for a manservant from Aberdeenshire, but his roguish charm was more than enough to win the heart of the world’s most powerful widow.

2. The one you want isn’t necessarily the one you need

Boy meets girl. Boy falls in love. Girl shows no apparent interest in boy, but agrees to a date anyway. Boy turns up for said date only to discover he’s actually taking out a completely different girl. It’s a simple plot, but one that charmed a generation in Bill Forsyth’s classic coming-of-age film Gregory’s Girl. Not only did it introduce the world to John Gordon Sinclair and Clare Grogan, but the movie also made Cumbernauld, for a brief time, the coolest town in the central belt. Released in 1981, it was ranked as the 30th best British film of the 20th century by the BFI, one place ahead of Zulu.

3. Invite a spy into your home at your peril

Hide Ad

When the dashing Richard Hannay is called at home by a woman in distress, he invites her in and offers his assistance - as any 1930s gentleman would. Unfortunately for the character played by Robert Donat, The 39 Steps is an Alfred Hitchcock film and the female lead is promptly found murdered. Nothing is as it seems in this classic movie, but Hannay wasn’t to know that as he teared around southern Scotland, climbed on the Forth Bridge, and generally ran himself ragged while trying to escape from the police for a crime he didn’t commit.

Read More
The films that captured Glasgow on the big screen

4. An irritating couple in print are even worse on screen

David Nicholl’s novel One Day might have been a best-seller, but that didn’t make the central characters in the 2011 film adaptation any more appealing. There’s the self-centred Dexter (Jim Sturgess), whose colossal ego naturally leads him to a career in TV. Emma (Anne Hathaway), meanwhile, isn’t happy unless she can seize the nearest moral high ground. This charmless duo revisit Edinburgh, where they first met as students, making them the worst thing to emerge from the city since the Darien Scheme. The film adaptation of the novel attracted a dismal 36 per cent rating on Rotten Tomatoes.

5. Independence supporters can embrace royalty

Braveheart is a fine work of fiction about an American actor who enjoys riding around rural Ireland while dressed as a Pictish warrior. Some critics have suggested it’s really about the life of Sir William Wallace, a medieval knight whose glorious defeats in battle predated the Scottish national team by more than six centuries, but there’s so little resemblance to reality it may as well be about flying to the moon. What the movie does make clear is that those in favour of Scottish independence can embrace royalty - in this case Queen Isabella of France, played by Sophie Marceau.

6. Grief can lead to strange relationships

Depending on your perspective, Hallam Foe is either about a complex character struggling to come to terms with his mother’s death, or a small-town weirdo who enjoys spying on people. Regardless, this 2007 drama starring Jamie Bell and Sophia Myles involves one of the most intense relationships in any Scottish film. Despite its idiosyncrasies, laid on so thick the plot almost chokes, the film retains a certain charm – only those with a heart of stone could be failed to be won over by Bell’s character.