“Bottoms up, knickers down” is the unofficial motto of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour, a Catholic school in the Scottish Highlands whose rambunctious choir take a day trip to Edinburgh to compete in a singing competition. For the schoolgirls, it’s an excuse to sneak off, get drunk, meet boys and maybe even acquire a pair of thigh-high leather boots. What Kate Dickie’s Sister Condron (playfully nicknamed “Sister Condom”) doesn’t know can’t hurt her. The ensemble cast are excellent; highlights include Tallulah Greive as Orla, a baby-faced cancer survivor with a dirty mind and a foul mouth, and Marli Siu as swaggering, red-lipsticked karaoke queen Kylah.
Based on Alan Warner’s novel The Sopranos, which was turned into a hit stage play by Lee Hall and Vicky Featherstone in 2015, the film is a period piece that makes the most of its 1996 setting (Savage Garden’s saccharine ballad Truly Madly Deeply is deployed to winning tragicomic effect). Yet for all its good-natured boisterousness, there is the sense that director Michael Caton-Jones is straining to get the tone just-so. A virginity-loss scene involving a tree, a rosary and some light BDSM is neither funny, sexy nor particularly subversive. As a male director, Caton-Jones knows better than to let the film become a pre-#MeToo sleazy fantasy, yet his tentativeness feels ill-suited to the uninhibited teenage sexuality the source material celebrates.