It’s the 90s. A group of Catholic school girls are on their way to Edinburgh for a choir competition, and despite the ominous warning of Sister Condron (aka Sister Condom – played by the excellent Kate Dickie) that “there are men there that would use and discard girls like you”, our ladies are on the lookout for alcohol, sex and all the sins in between.
Adapted from Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos, Michael Caton-Jones takes the “young girls alone in the big city” mechanics and applies them in interesting yet infuriating, entertaining yet meandering ways. It might sound like Derry Girls do Edinburgh, but somehow it’s both much more and much less than that.
Just as quickly as our five main protagonists are set free with hours to kill before the competition, they’re split up. Some want to buy new clothes, others need CDs and some just want to be alone, so we cross-cut between occasionally entertaining scenarios which – like all “anthologies” – are going to have different viewers engaging at different times for the majority of the second act. You’ll be hard pressed, however, to find anyone who doesn’t sit up and lip sync along with the tremendously energetic karaoke rendition of Tainted Love that centres the movie.
Tallulah Greive (Orla), Abigail Lawrie (Finnoula), Sally Messham (Manda), Rona Morison (Chell) and Marli Siu (Kylah) all excel as the sex, drugs and rock-n-roll obsessed teens, allowing you to ease into understanding their friendship and all the past struggles they’ve experienced, while the sharp, cruel and explicit dialogue is responsible for occasional shocks and many more laughs. Yet the stakes couldn’t feel lower as the girls control every scenario and problem they encounter with ease.
Our Ladies has its moments and the jokes definitely paper over any narrative cracks, but once it’s over, a nagging feeling that the film is much less “riotous teen comedy” than “dilly-dallying adventures” will be hard to shake.