Schemers is the inspiring true-life story of how a Dundee teen set his town's music scene alight – it's just a shame that the film has little interest in the women of that scene

Film Review by Rachel Baker | 29 Jun 2019
  • Schemers
Film title: Schemers
Director: David McLean
Starring: Conor Berry, Tara Lee, Sean Connor, Grant R Keelan

Written and directed by the man himself, Schemers depicts the dawn of David McLean’s career running the gig scene in Dundee in the 1970s and 1980s. After breaking his leg and ending his brief football career, Davie (Conor Berry) falls hard for a student nurse, Shona (Tara Lee), asking her to a disco that doesn’t exist. With the intention of impressing the subject of his affections, Davie embarks on a career of bringing the biggest bands of the decade to his humble hometown.

Schemers is a flawed tale of angst and ambition, which falls short through the hollow representation of several of its characters. As a wholehearted celebration of Dundee, however, it can hardly be faulted. Davie’s rocky road to success pits irrepressible teenage spirit against the limited opportunities of 1970s Scotland. The rip-roaring soundtrack, featuring the likes of The Proclaimers and Tears For Fears, creates a sense of anticipation and embodies the city’s potential, which Davie and his pals grab with one hand, a pint of Tennent’s in the other.

The film’s uplifting quality is sabotaged, though, by a narrow portrayal of the women that Davie encounters. The romance underpinning the narrative is jarring, as the lack of motivation behind Shona’s love for Davie paints her as a feeble, scantily-clad pushover. Meanwhile, the composition of the remaining female characters demeans the role of women in the music industry to little more than whiney wives and groupies. This incessant alienation, worsened by a script that gives each woman no role outside of their male counterparts, deeply undercuts Schemers’ otherwise positive and inspiring tone.

In many ways this project is a love letter from David McLean to the city that made his name, reminding us there is no town too small for someone who dreams big. It's just a shame that the same level of affection and respect wasn't afforded to the women who helped him along the way.

Schemers had its world premiere at Edinburgh International Film Festival

Rachel Baker is a student at University of Glasgow and part of Edinburgh International Film Festival's Student Critics Programme. For more on EIFF's Student Critics Programme, click here

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