Our Ladies follows a group of mischievous Catholic schoolgirls from the Highlands who travel to Edinburgh for a choir competition.
And their excitement at going to a big city is something actress Marli Siu, who grew up in a small Moray town, can very much relate to.
“One of the things my character, Kylah, is excited about is going to HMV and Topshop to buy CDs and clothes,” she said.
“Where I grew up, there also wasn’t a CD shop or a clothes shop so on weekends we would get the train to Inverness to go to a shopping centre.
“It’s a privilege that people who live in the city don’t realise – that these things are not easily accessible to everyone.
“So I related to Kylah’s excitement of just being able to go to McDonald’s. If you live in the city, it’s not a very exciting thing, but if you come from a country, it’s something you look forward to.”
Those living in smaller towns encouraged to see Our Ladies
And it’s the people living in small Scottish communities that Marli would like to encourage to see the film, which is adapted from Oban-born author Alan Warner’s 1998 novel The Sopranos.
She hopes they will enjoy their day-to-day experiences being shown on the big screen – something she says is really not that common.
Marli said: “I would love for people from smaller towns, like Fort William, where Our Ladies is set, to see the film and recognise things they maybe have not seen before because it’s unlikely to see small towns on the big screen.
“I would like for people from up north to see it too because if we do get films from Scotland, they are usually set in Glasgow or Edinburgh.”
Our Ladies explore friendships and sexuality
The Scottish coming-of-age comedy-drama was shot in Highlands in 2018 and premiered at the London Film Festival in 2019.
Originally, it was set to hit cinemas in April 2020; however, due to the ongoing pandemic, the release date had to be pushed back.
In addition to a lot of booze and boys, themes of friendship, sexuality, pregnancy and class difference feature in this highly-rated film.
The film focuses on a rebellious girl gang sitting at the back of the bus, travelling to Edinburgh for a choir competition.
“There’s much hilarity, chaos and the girls get up to a lot of things that don’t involve singing,” said Marli, laughing.
“It’s really centred on these young women and their friendship.”
Actresses became very close
Marli said the film director was very keen for the friendships to look as believable as possible.
She explained: “We had two weeks of rehearsals – all six of us girls – we lived together and we were really encouraged to get to know each other, hang out and bond and that really helped the process.”
Having become very close throughout the filming, Marli said the actresses really leaned on each other – sometimes literally.
“It was really cold,” she laughed.
“So there is a scene of me running down the stairs – I was wearing high heels – and I literally had to hold on to the other girls.
“Also, just getting to work with other women is very rare and that was lovely too.”
Challenges of living in a small town – then and now
Our Ladies aimed to capture the possibilities and frustrations of being a young woman living in rural Scotland in mid-90s.
While a lot has changed since then, Marli said that even though she is proud of coming from a small town, when it comes to her acting career, it would have been “easier” if she lived in a city or had her family there.
She said: “I’m very proud of being from a small town but it was very hard.
“If you want to go further afield for work you have less support and if you run out of money, you don’t have your family’s couch to crash on.
“It can also be a bit lonely living in a city if you don’t know anyone. I have a lot of friends who are from small towns and some of them had to go back and live at home for a bit when they didn’t have enough money, save up and then go to a city for work again.
“It’s just easier to go out for interviews and opportunities if you live in a city.”
Arts are underfunded in small local communities
Marli fell in love with acting while she was a student at Forres Academy and she is saddened that art programmers in smaller communities are currently underfunded.
“I think they are underfunded, overlooked and not considered important,” she said.
“The drama club I went to in high school – which is the reason why I am an actor – the funding got cut for it a couple of years ago and it no longer exists.
“I think it’s really important for other kids to have these opportunities, even in smaller communities, if they want to get into acting.
“I want them to know that it’s a possibility (being an actor) and it can be done.”
Prior to starring in Our Ladies, the young Scottish actress appeared in horror musical Anna And The Apocalypse.
“It was lovely,” said Marli. “I came out of uni (Edinburgh Napier University) and it was my first-ever filming gig.
“It was a really, really fun experience with the nicest crew and cast.”
Now that the restrictions have been lifted and filming re-started again, Marli has been cast as Nell in upcoming BBC series called Everything I Know About Love.
Emma Appleton, who appeared in The Witcher, and Bel Powley, whose credits include The Diary Of A Teenage Girl and The Morning Show, will also star in the TV adaptation of Dolly Alderton’s part memoir, part advice column.
Having enjoyed working with Scottish director Michael Caton-Jones on Our Ladies, Marli would love to have the opportunity to work with more talented producers, screenwriters and directors from her homeland.
She said: “There are so many things I’d love to do. I think there are so many brilliant and talented Scottish writers that I love and would love to work with.”
Marli would like to be cast in challenging roles that “push her forward” and give voice to marginalised communities.
She said: “I would like to tell stories that are important, stories that represent people who are rarely seen on screen – those are the ones I’m the most passionate about.
“I think we see a lot of people on screen who have similar backgrounds and I think it’s important that we see stories that represent a well-rounded view of the world.”
Our Ladies is currently in cinemas.