Gregory Underwood (John Gordon Sinclair) is an awkward teenager who plays in his school football team. They are not doing very well, so the coach (Jake D'Arcy) holds a trial to find new players. Dorothy (Dee Hepburn), turns up and, despite the coach's sexist misgivings, proves to be a very good player. She subsequently takes Gregory's place as centre forward, and Gregory in turn replaces his friend Andy (Robert Buchanan) as goalkeeper.
Gregory is all for her making the team, as he finds her very attractive. However, he has to compete for her attention with all the other boys who share the same opinion. Gregory initially confides in his best friend Steve (William Greenlees), the most mature of Gregory's circle of friends, and asks him for help in attracting Dorothy. Steve, however, is unable to assist him.
Acting on the advice of his precocious 10-year-old sister, Madeleine (Allison Forster), he awkwardly asks Dorothy out on a date. She accepts, but Dorothy's friend, Carol (Caroline Guthrie), shows up at the rendezvous instead and informs Gregory that something had come up; Dorothy will not be able to make it. He is disappointed, but Carol talks him into taking her to the chip shop.
When they arrive, she hands him off to another friend, Margo (Carol Macartney), and leaves. By then, Gregory is rather confused, but goes for a walk with the new girl. On their stroll, they encounter a waiting Susan (Clare Grogan), another of Dorothy's friends, and Margo leaves. Susan confesses that it was all arranged by her friends, including Dorothy. She explains, "It's just the way girls work. They help each other."
They go to the park and talk. At the date's end, Gregory is more than pleased with Susan, and the two kiss numerous times on his doorstep before calling it a night and arranging a second date. Madeleine, who had been watching from the window, quizzes him on his date and calls him a liar when he claims he did not kiss Susan.
Gregory's friends, Andy and Charlie (Graham Thompson), are even more inept with girls but see Gregory at various times with three apparent dates, and are envious of his new success. They try to hitchhike to Caracas, where Andy has heard the women greatly outnumber the men, but fail at that as well.John Gordon Sinclair as Gregory Underwood
Dee Hepburn as Dorothy
Clare Grogan as Susan
Caroline Guthrie as Carol
Jake D'Arcy as Coach Phil Menzies
Robert Buchanan as Andy
Graham Thompson as Charlie
Allison Forster as Madeline Underwood
William Greenlees as Steve
Carol Macartney as Margo
Allan Love as Eric
Chic Murray as Headmaster
Alex Norton as Alec
Douglas Sannachan as Billy, the window cleaner
Many of the young actors were members of the Glasgow Youth Theatre, and had appeared in Forsyth's earlier film, That Sinking Feeling (1980), including Robert Buchanan, Billy Greenlees, and John Gordon Sinclair. Hepburn was spotted by Forsyth dancing in a television commercial for a Scottish department store, and after casting given six weeks of intensive football training at Partick Thistle F.C.
Filming of exterior scenes at Gregory's school took place at Abronhill High School. As the film had a small budget, the actors supplied many of their own clothes; Hepburn's white shorts were borrowed from her sister. A person in a penguin costume is seen at various points in the film for no apparent reason. Inside the suit was Christopher Higson, son of production supervisor Paddy Higson.
The film was re-dubbed with rather Anglicized Scottish accents for the original American theatrical release. Both versions are available on the American DVD release.
The film's cast reunited for the 30th anniversary of its release in 2010, and a clip from the film featuring Hepburn was part of the opening ceremony at the London 2012 Summer Olympics.
Film critic Roger Ebert liked the film's direction, and wrote "Bill Forsyth's Gregory's Girl is a charming, innocent, very funny little movie about the weird kid. ... The movie contains so much wisdom about being alive and teenage and vulnerable that maybe it would even be painful for a teenager to see it. ... Maybe only grown-ups should see this movie. You know, people who have gotten over the pains of unrequited love (hollow laugh)."
The staff at Variety liked the work of the young cast and Forsyth's direction, and wrote, "Filmmaker Bill Forsyth, whose friendly, unmalicious approach recalls that of René Clair, is concerned with young students (in particular, a soccer team goalie, Gregory) seeking out the opposite sex. ... As Gregory, John Gordon Sinclair is adept at physical comedy. Hepburn is properly enigmatic as the object of his desire, with ensemble approach giving Greg's precocious 10-year-old sister played by Allison Forster a key femme role."
Critic Richard Skorman wrote, "Forsyth does a good job of making light of the tender part in [Gregory's] teenage psyche, and his friends and little sister in particular are quirky and lovable. Unlike the film's American counterparts, Gregory's Girl is refreshingly free of mean-spirited characters and horny young studs bemoaning their virginity."
The review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes reported that 92% of critics gave the film a positive review, based on thirteen reviews.Wins
British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA): Award for Best Original Screenplay, Bill Forsyth, 1982
London Critics Circle Film Awards: Special Achievement Award, Bill Forsyth, 1982
Variety Club actress of the year award, Dee Hepburn, 1981
BAFTA Award for Best Newcomer, John Gordon Sinclair, 1981
BAFTA Award for Best Direction, Bill Forsyth, 1982
BAFTA Award for Best Film, Bill Forsyth, 1982
A sequel, Gregory's Two Girls, was released in 1999, with Sinclair reprising the role of Gregory, who by then was a 35-year-old teacher in his former secondary school. It received mixed reviews and has never been released in North American cinemas or on DVD in that region.