Oftentimes, coming-of-age films are told through a glossy American lens. We see teenagers ask their crushes to carry their books to class and shy love interests post notes through one another's lockers. Young British audiences watching these jock-filled movies know full well that they will never quite capture the specific awkwardness of the British secondary school experience.
This month, however, one film is attempting to give Gen Z a glimpse into the real world of young adulthood. Scottish dramedy Our Ladies, which comes to cinemas on 27th August, follows six Catholic schoolgirls from the far shores of Fort William as they embark on a choir trip to Edinburgh with their peers at Our Lady of Perpetual Succour School for Girls.
Some internet users have pre-emptively drawn parallels with Channel 4’s Derry Girls but regional accents and 1990s backdrop aside, the stories sit in different worlds. This is in part due to Our Ladies' rich source material: Alan Warner's 1998 novel The Sopranos. Changing its name for obvious reasons, the film adaptation sticks fairly closely to the book, following Orla (Tallulah Greive), Kylah (Marli Siu), Chell (Rona Morison), Manda (Sally Messham), Fionnula (Abigail Lawrie) and Kay (Eve Austin) on their first big, booze-filled trip to the city.
It’s here that the girls of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour can finally be free from the uniform restrictions and uptight attitudes imposed on them by the school’s nuns. With just one day to fit in all their debauchery, they come up with a game plan: get drunk, buy sexy shoes and, most importantly, shag. This last point is particularly important to Orla, who is yet to lose her virginity after being seriously ill in hospital. She's not taking her recovery – viewed as a miracle by the local religious community – for granted, though, and sets her sights on finding someone to fulfil a very specific sexual fantasy.
Elsewhere, the other girls have serious goals of their own. For Kylah, it’s all about hitting up the pop-punk section of HMV and showing off her talents at a karaoke dive bar, while Chell and Manda want to get as pissed as possible. For Fionnula, meanwhile, a trip to the capital offers a chance to finally explore her true identity and an opportunity to make amends with the school’s resident rich girl, Kay. But like all teenage dreams, nothing goes as planned and the girls find themselves having to deal with predatory men and building tension within the group.
This swirl of storylines is held together brilliantly by a bright young cast who embody the characters' horny, hilarious energy with ease. But it’s the portrayal of platonic intimacy that makes the film such a joy to watch as the six leads demonstrate the formative power of female friendships. Eve Austin, who plays Our Ladies outsider Kay, says this is entirely true to the cast’s real-life relationship.
"We all had this instantaneous bond from the minute we started rehearsals and the girls have genuinely become some of my best friends," Austin tells R29. "I knew while filming that even if nothing had come of the project, to have fallen in love with these five women was just such a blessing. But I never could have known that years after filming we would all be still meeting up and going on nights out together. I even live with Talullah now, that's how much we like each other," says Austin.
When it comes to her experience on set, Austin says the cast had just as much fun between takes as they did shooting the scenes. "After filming the karaoke bar scene in Edinburgh we heard that Lily Allen had a gig that evening so we decided to go around the place hiding secret notes behind the mirrors and in the loo in the hopes that she’d get in contact if she saw them. Clearly, she never found them as we didn’t get a phone call," she says, laughing.
With an emotion-filled narration that helps to keep the film on course, Our Ladies is equal parts happy and sad, shedding light on the situations that girls face too young while capturing that burning teenage desire to be treated as an adult. Whether you watch it for the characters' infectious who-gives-a-fuck attitudes, the soothing shots of the Scottish Highlands or the pure '90s nostalgia, Our Ladies is a paean to the wonders of the teenage experience.
Our Ladies comes to UK cinemas on Friday 27th August.