Scottish films have a tendency to be Highlands-based horror shows, or to take place within Edinburgh or Glasgow, or so it’s refreshing to have a Dundonian tale in Dave McLean’s autobiographical drama Schemers. Based on the teenage years of the first-time writer and director, the story follows David (Conor Berry) in 1979, the exciting coming-of-age phase of his life. When a nasty football injury forces him to reevaluate his career options, he seizes an opportunity in music promotion with pals Scot (Sean Connor) and John (Grant Robert Keelan) but runs into trouble along the way.
Shot through a grainy haze of nostalgia, the narrative borrows tricks from the early work of Guy Ritchie to create a sense of fun in the rhythm of the piece. The protagonist’s internal monologue navigates us through his carefree world of booze, gambling, and, of course, ‘fitba’, and the director makes good use of freezeframes while suitably upbeat tracks provide the perfect soundtrack. With authentic dialect running through the witty script and a peppering of pop culture nods, it feels very much like a love-letter to the writer’s hometown.
Conor Berry brings reckless youthful energy to the leading role, and shares a stirring on-screen relationship with rising star Tara Lee who has been making quite the impression on the indie scene for a few years now. After a crew change and a reshoot midway through the production, Dave McLean’s Schemers is a scrappy underdog of a movie, and puts Dundee on the cinematic map.
Check out my interview with writer/director Dave McLean & actor Conor Berry here!