I am writing this blog piece as a public service
announcement. Life can take you to some desperately horrible, depressing,
anger-making places, and this unfortunately happened to me tonight. So I’m
going to tell you how to avoid inflicting terrible pain on yourself. You
listening – well, reading – aye? Right:
Don’t go to Youtube and put ‘Scottish film’ into the search engine just to see what comes up, just for the ‘fun’ of it. Otherwise, in amidst all the rubbish about Braveheart and how ‘Scotch’ accents are – hyuck hyuck! – incomprehensible, you may chance across swill like the trailer above. The film hasn't been released yet, as far as I can see, and I have only seen the trailer.
My eye was caught by the fact that Meet You in Scotland is a 2022 film that I had never heard of. So I idly watched the trailer…and painfully subjected myself towards the semi-sentient unromantic 'comedy' shite that compromises its running time. Why I was in pain will be eminently understandable to anybody who watched it. Which you don’t actually have to, I’ll just dissect if for you, but feel free to subject yourself to it if you are feeling masochistic enough.
After I first watched the trailer, I found myself shouting my usual boring raging ragbag of clichés about despising American films involving Scotland in any way, and, indeed, about despising the American middle class. And the country itself. Laughing here. Showed the trailer to an appalled filmmaker pal of mine. He asked me, pertinently, “Who finances this pish?” So I did a bit of rapido net research, and what I found surprised me – and disgusted me twice as much. All will be revealed…
So. We start off with a ‘vertiginous’ drone shot of New York (that shot is of there; who knows about other footage in the film), set to bland,
generic, vacuous anal froth that comprises the soundtrack of ‘witty’ comedy
films set in New York or, indeed, America in general. Punchy, upbeat, tedious,
forgettable (whom I think were four of the seven dwarfs). Then we have a shot
of some young woman looking moonfaced at some lobotomised book called ‘The
Weight of Mourning’ by some generic Scottish poet called (laughing here) ‘James
MacDuff.’ Sounds like a weighty, dreich, dreary tome, but she seems to find
that uplifting and happymaking. Poignant. Clearly she's a deep thinker.
Transpires that little miss moonshine is getting the coffees for the high heid
yins in her busy office. If there’s anything more clichéd than a dour Scottish poet, it’s everything in New
York being fast-paced and frantic, taking place in an office where everybody shouts at each other all the time. It’s one of cinema’s greatest crap clichés.
Perhaps they should stop drinking all that coffee and they might be a little
more mellow and laid back.
We see a shot of Jimmy’s depressing poetry volume being replaced in the shop window by a book called (laughing here) 'The Bell Tower Rings Thrice.' Cos that’s real life for you – poorly-titled books ('Thrice'?) by obscure Scottish poets are often prominently displayed in the same sale space as bestsellers. This book is written by some bint called Liz Harvii, who some bespectacled assistant-type ponce simpers about being “one of the most famous novelists in the world, and her real identity is a mystery.”
Aye, that’s right. In a world where every single fucking thing in the world is documented and stuck up online second-by-second, an extremely famous writer can keep her identity a secret. Tell that to Stephen King, or JK Rowling, and watch them laugh at you. If you can get past their bodyguards, that is. But, of course, this is just exposition: nobody knows who she is, so anybody can be her, right? Ingenious!
Some fucking wankstain who, incredibly, can't even pronounce the word ‘Scotland’ correctly, says Harvii’s getting something at the “Written Word Awards” here (they spent a long time thinking that one up, eh? So much for the famed Scottish linguistics facility!) so is going to fly out to Scot-land to accept it. Crazy. So her identity is a mystery, but she’s going to accept an award in public. Laughing and shaking my head here.
Our female coffee-carrying character, Jen, works at this publishing outfit. Ah, the bookish groupie type with no writing talent who goes to work for a gatekeeper to the stars, so she can get to hang around with them and get a vicarious writing 'career' buzz. We know her type. On this island, they're usually English, in London, normally called Lucy or Emmeline or Cassiopeia, and are always middle class. She inadvertently reveals herself to be a “poet – sort of” by dropping her clichéd poetic notebook at the feet of some blonde middle-aged woman who will turn out to be…guess who? You could write this shit yourself in your sleep, couldn’t you? “There are no more good poets,” says (spoiler alert!!!!!!) Liz Harvii dismissively. I know a few good Scottish poets who would argue with that shite. “James MacDuff is an excellent poet!” squeaks wee Jen defensively in support of the fantasy Scottish bard she loves.
Oddly, Harvii gets food poisoning just before she’s due to head off to Scotland to blow her hard-maintained cover at the awards ceremony, and Jen has to go in place of her to collect the award. As Harry Hill would put it, “What are the chances of that happening, eh?” Some twentysomething wannabe-writer bird who flaps around the publishing office dropping her poetry notebook is now an international jetsetter, the representative of a huge writer (bet that fries her fanny, what with her wanting to be a wordworker herself) and publisher. And it’s in gorgeous Scot-land too! Like awesome, dude!
So she heads off to the airport and gets ‘mistaken’ for Liz Harvii. We can see that this pathetic, ludicrous pretence will form the entire slender, scoliosis-ridden, creaking-calcium (broken) backbone for the story. The word ‘thin’ doesn’t cover this – ‘anorexic’ might be more appropriate. It’s like something from a shit 80s sitcom, Oh Crikey on ITV.
Next we see the funniest bit in the whole waste of two minutes and thirty-two seconds. A pained poet prick sits angrily scrawling imperfect poetic lines on a notepad in the airport pub with a pen, scrunching them up when they won’t sit on the page and sing right for him. This is how we instantly know he’s a ‘poet.’ Well, that and the flat cap he’s appropriated from 20th century working class culture, so we know he’s salt of the earth, ya bas. Earthy...as...fuck.
Much like our man in the airport pub here. He’s frustrated his timeless poignant immortal scribbling can’t be contained by any mere piece of paper. A crap, ludicrous exchange takes place between them, where it turns out that the pap in the flat cap is…go on…guess…James MacDuff his very fucking self! The odds on that are beyond astronomical. Jen/Liz chokes on her coffee because she does not recognise him. Despite him being her favourite poet. Clearly she has never looked him up online to gaze in awe at photos of him in his cap in a drinking den, wanking away and thinking about how great it would be to meet him in some Scottish pub – cos poets in that country always just sit around in drinking establishments with quill and papyrus, laptops and electricity have not yet been invented there yet – and gaze deep into his tortured eyes and then have him write a lovelorn romantic poem about poor wee nervous inferior uncultured American her. Then he would read it to her in that hotttt Scotchman accent and they would get married and live in his castle and have beautiful redhaired babies and the world would be put to rights forever, right?
This kind of plot conceit might just have worked in the 20th century, when not every single person in the world was represented online in minute detail, let alone poets famous enough to have been heard of in America, whose books get prominently placed in windows in chi-chi downtown New York bookshops. You trying to tell me she wouldn’t know what her fave young Scottish poet would look like? Maybe if she was blind or something. Didn't his book have an author photo on the back cover? Ludicrous.
Through some vague and improbable series of events (as shown in the trailer, Scotland doesn't do decent mobile phone reception - we normally use carrier pigeons or messenger haggises), overlaid by bad generic ‘Celtic’ banjo music, she ends up kipping down at laird Jimmy MacDee’s gaff which is, of course, a huge, incredibly expensive ancestral home. In the Highlands, of course. Where the fuck else? Let me tell you something. I know a few Scottish poets. Decent people, but not a fucking one of them lives in a fucking Highlands mansion, and they certainly don’t get paid anywhere near enough to buy one. So that would mean that this guy is probably to the manor born, which would make his pub scrawling probably just a pile of no-real-life-problems tosspotesque stuff and shite and nonsense. Soon wee Jen's inspired by the opulent surroundings and scribbling away as well. She could get used to this! Heartwarming.
Boaby guzzler Jim even has an old grizzled keeper for his estate, who sits and makes sage comments about “the Scottish air” and pushes the two halfwitted characters together. You have to love a film (well, I say film, it's shot on video) where the concept of being on a hike is a source of great consternation and ‘hilarity’ to Americans. Still, they’re easily amused, so anything is possible. Of course, here we get an excess of scenery shots, of the type so beloved by VisitScotland, the hills and Highlands and heather-pimpers. This vomitous shite is the kind of thing that is basically used as a tourism advert for this country, and it wouldn’t surprise me to learn they got some sort of funding from lobotomy cases like Creative Scotland to chuck in these shots every five minutes.
Meanwhile, back at the middle class Yank female fantasy ranch, Jen and Jim are hanging out in the pub with fiddlers playing up a storm, and doing Highland dancing, cos, once again, that’s what happens in real life in this country. All we do is just sit in the pub singing and dancing and writing poetry, lassie! Crivvens, jings, help ma boab, how quintessentially Celtic! Jim implores Jen to read out one of her poems. “This is a safe place,” he gravely intones, using a Yankism that lets you know what a total cunt he is, and how worthless his 'poetry' would be. But no, she can’t: stage fright! Performance poet anxiety!
But heartbreaker melodrama is waiting in the wings ready to strike! Liz Harvii has regained control of her bowels after her bout with the “Aztec shuffles” (thanks to Dr Weetabix for that classic) and has headed to Scotland! Everything comes to a head at the awards ceremony, where healed-Satanic-Verse Liz reveals her true identity to the world (cos clearly Jen had no idea who she was working for – does anycunt know who anycunt else is in this film, ever?!) and, stunned, Jim can’t believe his dream Yank interloper has been lying to him and impersonating a famous author! Hope you checked your wallet was still there the next morning if you shagged her, pained poetboy! That should be worth a few bad rhyming poems or angsty lost love doggerel stanzas, eh?
But no, just like Eminem in 8 Mile, Jen rallies at the end and reads a poem to her broken-hearted beau, redeeming herself and saving the day! She reads out part of it in the trailer:
“I’ve seen a land
Where the wind urges you explore
And the rain washes away your fears
And it’s within this land
That I found him”
Jesus H Donkey Kong Christ, how utterly fucking pedestrian. Sub-teenage kailyard bilge that would put William McGonagall to shame. Zero feel for words whatsoever. With her accent and sex and lack of talent, she’d be getting every poetry award known to this country thrown at her. All she would have to do was throw in a few references to colonialism, the patriarchy, lost love, dead ponies, feminism, anal bleaching, hating Rabbie Burns, how shite white people are, cattle mutilation, being queer, misogyny, killer dolls, controversial haircuts, racism, gothic horror, and daddy issues, and she could be buying property more expensive than Jim’s ramshackle shack this time next year! Tick boxes, dahlink, and leave the blandscape versifying to our current Makar (Scottish National Poet) Kathleen Jamie. They'll love you down at the Scottish Poetry Library!
Jim’s ego is, of course, stroked, and he’s tickled pink that’s it the thought of what’s under a Scotsman’s kilt (his boots) that draws his shy, nervous, talentless, famous-person-impersonating belle out of her comfort zone to lose her reading virginity in public in a foreign country. And they kiss and make up and never want to break up and marry and settle down and have six kids and roam the land hiking and he gets more and more famous and she gets published through nepotism but isn’t very good and she starts to get bitter and tear at him through jealousy at his clearly superior talent and starts drinking during the day, gets sloppy, lets the old sage guy finger her in the barn drunk once cos of her daddy issues, but it’s never spoken of again, all very hushush. And things go on the slide and they both sink into the depths of alcoholic depravity and throw things at each other and the kids get taken away and the cops get called numerous times to the mansion and once it’s not quick enough and she stabs him and he nearly dies and they get divorced and he gets a restraining order and writes a Nobel Prize for Literature-winning concrete poetry volume about their eternal battle of the sexes and dies having fallen into his loch drunk trying to get away from her one night and she inappropriately wears red at the funeral and takes up with a much younger fiddle player from the village and writes substandard avant-garde poetry and is critically lauded on both sides of the Atlantic for her courageous struggle against booze and lack of talent and her far superior husband and her kids disown her and she gets a phobia of reflective surfaces as she wanders the mansion sozzled and she drinks herself to death age fifty and that…is the end…of that. A horror to equal Sylvia Plath's sad end. Their firstborn has a traumatised autobio out next year. Be in the window of a chi-chi New York bookstore near you soon enough. Watch out for it.
Okay, so maybe I made that up. They give away the ending in the trailer. Are you even surprised how it all turns out? It all ended up in the trailer as we knew it would: saccharine and happy-ever-after. Formulaic as fuck, and by formula I mean baby formula, fed to girning burping puking pissing weans. But it’s funny. This film offended me on a very fucking deep level, and I am not one to even waste time much these days getting offended. I certainly don’t get offended by the trite tripe the mentally ill youngsters hiding in their online ‘safe spaces’ get offended by. Which is nearly everything, and the greedy bastirts barely leave anything for the rest of us, but this film did manage to offend me.
It offended me by the laziness of script, because it's basically just an insult to Scotland, and to people who put time and effort into their writing here. It offended me by the simplistic, patronising clichés. By the tired, tiresome predictability. By the mediocre acting. But most of all I was offended (and surprised by) the fact that it was a Scottish fucking production company that made this utter shite, an insult to good filmmaking. Hey, vapid middle class American woman, just marry a rich Scottish poet laird, and everything will just fall into place! Risible drivel.
Now when I say that a Scottish production company made this, I should add a proviso: Heehaw, the company in question, is an Edinburgh company, from the affluent West End of the city, so technically they’re English, as it’s such an English city, like Stirling. I’m only being partly facetious. The writer, a woman named Hanna Tatschl, writes for River City, which might explain the cheesy soap opera feel of the utterly unoriginal material. This is the first full-length film based on her work that’s been produced. It’s also the first full-length feature (albeit a made-for-television one) that Heehaw have made.
So I can guess how this was made: some load of filmmaker-wannabes sat round a table and decided they wanted to try and break into the American market with a feature. And what do Yanks love more than Scottish clichés, am I right? Poetry, fiddles, hills, Highland flings, lochs, sweeping broody green vistas, cute sheep, wind through the pubic hair of the young impressionable American heroine....who gets the rich, hot Scottish poet guy. Ms. Taschl is originally from Dublin. It’s like she distilled every single horribly clichéd thought and view that Americans have about Scotland and Ireland and stuck them into one steaming pile of spunky monkey manure.
This would probably appeal to the middle class over there, with their erroneous views on their all-white ancestral homeland, their St. Andrew’s and accent fetishism, their deluded beliefs that everybody here lives in the Highlands…and on and on. God, but I hated that utterly worthless shit when I lived over there! So to think of a Scottish production company helping perpetuate this lobotomised idiocy is almost more than I can bear, and the reason I wrote this tonight in a frenzied screed, after seeing the trailer by accident a few hours ago. It’s bad enough that Americans should be so cliché-wielding and closed-minded when it comes to the 21st century reality of this country, but to have Scottish people gleefully feeding that bonfire of the decorticated American vanities is almost more than I can bear. Not that that matters in the grand scheme of things, of course, but how much of this lazy indignity can they heap on us?
A lot more, will probably be the answer.
I would imagine that Ms. Tatschl will go on to write better things, and that Heehaw (the middle classes in this country love using occasional cherrypicked Scottish words – gives them such a colloquial working class authenticity, dahlink) might go on to make better films. By Christ, they better. I know filmmakers in this country who struggled for years to do extremely personal, small projects, and who have always gotten them done. They didn’t have to resort to cliché-pimping utter shite to produce their work. This sort of film is why I am glad that the Filmhouse is closed down, and the Edinburgh International Film Festival is finished, too. This sort of utterly fluffy guff should not be encouraged, especially not by Scottish people.
Can’t wait for the sequel.
Talk amongst yourselves.
PS: Was the title here inspired by the book Meet Me in Scotland by Patience Griffin, Ms. Tatschl...? Wink wink....
PS: Yes, I do take the piss out of America and Americans in some of my pieces. It's kind of a pisstake on the whole 'Greatest Country In The World' (TM) thing they blowhard about. They're just another country, and can take a slagging just like anybody else. No Americans were harmed during the making of this production.