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[Beautiful Neil Truelove ]

Film facts Plot summary
General comments Comments by Colin
Comments about Colin Trivia
Reviews of Dutch Girls Favourite Quotes
Dutch Girls - the Darcy connection Ratings
Web links Back to Main Roles page
Credits Coming soon: COLIN SPEAKS! 








Dutch Girls is a simple, harmless little made-for-TV movie on a common theme - adolescent boys exploring the first stirrings of sexuality. Unlike "Porky" style movies, however, this little charmer retains its sense of decorum throughout.

Colin Firth plays Neil Truelove, a seventeen-year-old schoolboy trembling on the brink of manhood who schemes his way into his boarding school's hockey trip to Holland by weighing down his hockey stick with lead. Once he arrives, he is immediately exposed to the great 'mystery of life' - women. Neil meets a Dutch girl, Romelia, at hockey practice, and goes through all the variations of awkward phases as he starts to grow up. He encounters her again at a local discotheque, and they have a charming - and entirely innocent - evening together, in which Neil doesn't even have the nous to get a goodnight kiss, for which he rebukes himself severely.

He exhibits extreme repression brought on by his sheltered upbringing, and the tendency of public school (apparently) to squash independent thought or the spirit of adventure. He tries to be nonchalant - "fancy a dance?"- but can't quite pull it off. He does learn, eventually, to appreciate the independent spirit of Lyndon Baines, although this character at first sight is hardly a good advertisement for freedom of thought and action, with his gross vulgarity and unthinking behaviour.




Colin's early trademark was a succession of roles (often set in the past) in which he was cast as a naive young man thrust into the world to learn about life and love. This phase is epitomised by films such as Dutch Girls, in which he played (at the age of 23) 17-year-old Neil Truelove, trembling on the brink of manhood, with a dewy-eyed innocence and the feeling that his voice might have only broken recently. Truelove is a well-observed mixture of repressed sexuality, anxiety to conform, and secret rebellion - he cheats in order to win a place on the school hockey team, and there is a nice moment when he thinks he has been caught smoking cigarettes in the bedroom of his Dutch hosts' home.
Timothy Spall, best known for his work with director Mike Leigh (Secrets and Lies, Life is Sweet, etc.) is terrific as Lyndon Baines, and watch out for an excellent comic turn by Bill Paterson (Comfort and Joy, The Singing Detective) as the boys' long-suffering supervising teacher, the excruciating Mr Mole.




Colin has spoken in a number of interviews about his dislike of school. Although he does not refer to Dutch Girls, one might imagine that he played the role of Neil Truelove with a sympathy and understanding born of experience. Here is a comment made by Colin on the subject of school days in

From Empire magazine April 1997:

Making the film [Fever Pitch], I had to overcome a real distaste for being in a school because I loathed my own so much. I can't emphasise enough how much I hated school. I remember thinking, this is really ruining my life. I just had to get it out of my head that school is automatically a cruelty - I didn't want my little boy to have to go! I had to remind myself that there are those who actually enjoy it and it's not necessarily the nightmare I think. So I did get a bit of a shudder when we went in. Being in assembly when all the kids take their seats and there's this smell of floor polish, seeing all those things written on the front of exercise books. I've just got a bit of a problem with institutions . ..
In this interview, Colin makes an oblique reference to Dutch Girls:

Attitude April 1997 (excerpt only):

Did he find himself getting typecast after making such a strong first impact as the uncompromising, young, communist public schoolboy in Another Country? "I was given the sort of English public schoolboy stamp. It got me my first and my second and third jobs. Very high-profile stuff. I was delighted to get them, but then there comes a point when you think 'but I can't keep doing this.' I'm not that - I'm not a public schoolboy, you know. I went to a secondary school. I went to the worst type of English schools and uh, and I didn't talk this way as a schoolboy - I spoke with my regional accent. It's not what interests me ultimately. I didn't want to spend my entire life telling the stories of various English, privileged men - it's not me."

URL link to Jane's Firth articles page for the full-length versions of articles from which quotes are taken.




URL link to Jane's Firth articles page for the full-length versions of articles from which quotes are taken.




[Neil & Lyndon Baines meet their hosts at dinner ]
Neil & Lyndon Baines meet their first Dutch girl - five year old Anna.




The available reviews, which do not mention Colin by name, share a similar refrain:

The Times 25 November 1985:

Dutch Girls (ITV), a play by the novelist William Boyd, came to the screen with the dubious benefit of overkill advertising by the originating company, London Weekend Television. The action concerned a group of boys from an all-male public school who embark upon a sporting tour of Holland, hell-bent on sexual experience. The idea that a single-sex boarding school is a bad start for heterosexual life was developed over-subtly in the script and heavy-handedly in the direction, and the advertising budget could have been profitably devoted to rescuing a potentially sound piece from this imbalance.
The Times TV Review, 1 December 1985:
Dutch Girls (ITV Sunday) was about the adventures of a public school hockey team in Holland. Like the old Will Hay films in which blue-chinned men sat behind school desks, it required a fairly massive effort on the viewer's part to accept that these were boys at all. The great Timothy Spall, who provided the only comedy, had a distinct beer belly, which he showed on several occasions. So it was doomed from the start. There was some stuff about class, some mutterings about public schools, but William Boyd's script was just a bad script cartoon.
Times Literary Supplement 6 December 1985 (excerpt only):
Crude signalling characterises even the romantic interludes. The boy who fails - through public-school-induced diffidence and duped reliance on his chum's word - to win the Dutch girl he wistfully covets is called Truelove. "Like true - love?" the girl - first glimpsed as a sun-dappled idyll and often accompanied by beatifically choiring female voices on the soundtrack - asks, just in case the significance is missed. . . .

The final moment of the play depicts the hurling away of a hockey stick as a gesture of revolt against the public school team spirit. . . .

Steeped in what it stigmatizes, Dutch Girls is full of back-firing incongruities - not least some ill-advised chortling over a well-developed pin up ("If she's seventeen I'll eat my hat") by a distinctly mature-looking cast of actors in school caps.




On their first night in Holland, Neil and Lyndon Baines Jellicoe discuss the facts of life.

LYNDON: As my old man says, in the dark, all cats are grey.

NEIL: Do you and your father talk about - you know - that sort of thing?

LYNDON: We get on all right.

NEIL: The only thing my father ever told me was that women are a lifetime study. I wonder if he's right, because if he is I've got off to a bloody slow start.

LYNDON: Yeah, it stands to reason. When did you go to school?

NEIL: When I was seven.

LYNDON: Well, there you are. You're like a bloody innocent outside school, you don't know how it works.

NEIL: God, you can spout. I suppose you know exactly how to handle women.

LYNDON: I just treat them like blokes. Best way.

Neil is summoned from the hockey game by a group of young women watching from the sidelines.

[Colin as Neil]

ROMELIA: Hey! English boy!

NEIL: Bloody hell!

ROMELIA: Hello, English boy.

NEIL: Hello. [Clears his throat] Hello.

ROMELIA: Do you want to go to a discotheque tonight?

NEIL: Who, me?

ROMELIA: Yes, you. And your friends, of course.

NEIL: Uh - yes, I think so. [Charming smile] Yes please!


Romelia offers Nick a lift on her moped. "Yes please", says Nick . . .

Romelia has invited Neil back to her parents' home for a cup of coffee, and they talk.

ROMELIA: What's your second name, Neil?

NEIL: Oh, it's Truelove. Neil Truelove.

ROMELIA: You mean like true - love? [Sings] I give to you and you give to me true love . . . Like that?

NEIL: [Looking pained] Yes. Unfortunately.

ROMELIA: But it's a good name. I like it.

NEIL: Well, I had to take a lot of crap about it at school, you know. False love, lover boy, lovey dovey, that sort of thing. Childish. Just at school, that is.

ROMELIA: You like your school?

NEIL: No, I hate it.

ROMELIA: You live there?

NEIL: Uh - yeah, it's a boarding school.

ROMELIA: All boys together?

NEIL: Worse luck, yeah.

ROMELIA: For how long?

NEIL: Oh, ten years. I went when I was seven, you see.

ROMELIA: How terrible!

NEIL: No, it's quite common in Britain. Actually, I don't hate it because I'm away from home, it's because - at school you sort of - feel as if life's going on in the rest of the world, and it's all going on around you, and you're sort of missing out on it.

ROMELIA: I think it's awful to be like that. . . .

NEIL: One good thing about school is the friends you make, you know, um . . . You do make some - you know - very good friends. Um. Without your friends, you couldn't survive. We help each other get through, if you know what I mean. We have some - uh - some good laughs. Good times. [ He really wants to kiss Romelia, but he is terrified, and has no idea how to go about it.]




Truelove does the 'Darcycam' look . . .
The real thing . . .
This made-for-TV film was an early shared outing for Colin, Adrian Lukis and Sue Birtwistle, as producer. I amused myself by imagining that Colin & Adrian were playing out Darcy & Wickham's pre-Cambridge school days. This made me really enjoy Adrian, looking fetching in a school cap and pink blazer, calling Colin (who never submitted to the indignity of a school cap) a "prat". And we also got to see "Mr Wickham" getting in some early practice in the dubious art of seduction, with a bacardi & coke ready to feed to an apparently willing girl on the back stairs.

The real highlight (& Darcy connection) for me was the first disco scene. What an uncanny parallel to the Netherfield ball! There was "Darcycam" all over again, as Colin/Truelove (perfect name for him) stalked about the room, keeping his eyes on Romelia, with naive baby-beginner's lust, totally tongue-tied and not sure how to make his move. The same Darcy-as-teenager longing looks from a doorway. I am amused when I imagine Darcy "practising" for falling in love with Lizzy. Then when Neil finally gets up the courage and stutters "fancy a dance?", I giggle again at the delightful youthful comparison to Darcy's "would you do me the honour . . .?" The dance itself is sweet - can't you just imagine yourself in Romelia's place? - and this is how Darcy would have wanted the dance with Lizzy to go.

[Romelia & Nick dance at the disco]




LW "rating system":

***** Superb/breathtaking/heartstopping/etc 
**** Excellent 
*** Very pleasing 
** Still lovely, but . . . 
* Bad hair day 

LW's Dutch Girls personal ratings:

**** Colin's looks 
**** Colin's acting ability 
*** The film in general 
*** Ranking in the films of Colin Firth 
**** Watchability & rewind factor 

To come: Friends of Firth Dutch Girls ratings

[the hockey sticktoss look]

The final image from Dutch Girls:

Neil throws away his hockey stick in a gesture of defiant independance.




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This page written/assembled by Lisa Warrington. Send me an email

It is part of a Firthland project on the films of Colin Firth.

Snappy photo credits:


Visit Sharon's Dutch Girls page


Visit Amy's Dutch Girls snappy site & her home page

This page last updated 6 July 1998.

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