Billy Elliot: Directed by Stephen Daldry
a jpoc movie review
Lump in the throat? You Bet!
Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) is a young boy living with his father Jackie (Gary Lewis (III)), elder brother Tony (Jamie Draven) and slightly senile grandmother (Jean Heywood) in a small terraced house in a County Durham pit village. Billy tends his mother's grave in a tiny cemetery in the shadow of the pit.
In the midst of the 1984 miners strike, eleven year old Billy is sent to boxing lessons by his father but Billy wants to dance. When his father catches Billy bunking off from the boxing club to have ballet lessons he feels humiliated and embarrassed and this bursts out as anger. Banned from the lessons by his father, Billy perseveres and eventually, of course, he is found out again. Billy cannot argue with his father, words will never carry his message so he does the only thing that he can. He dances for his father.
Of course, one great irony is that for boys growing up in a pit village like Billy's, the boxing club may well represent their best chance of a life other than as a miner, yet Billy is on the brink of the same escape via the chance of an audition at the royal ballet school.
Many people will think that this does not sound like their kind of film. If that sounds like you, give it a chance, you could be surprised!
A film like this is always in danger of becoming just a little too sweet especially in its concluding moments but not Billy Elliot. The main reason for that, and also for the impact of the film is the firm grasp that this film has on reality. Billy's father and brother are totally convincing in their roles as are their fellow miners. So too is Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters) Billy's ballet teacher. None of these people has an easy role to play and they all do a fantastic job. Of course, Jamie Bell stands out in the title role and his is one of the finest child performances that I have ever seen. Stuart Wells & Nicola Blackwell play his best friend Michael and Debbie the daughter of his ballet teacher. Together they make a trio that stands far above anything since Hayley Mills in Whistle Down the Wind back in 1961.
The conflicts between the striking miners and the police range from realism to the surreal and some of the latter moments had me wondering if somehow Ken Russell had guest directed a scene and Oliver Reed was about to make a cameo as a police sergeant.
The film could have benefited from a little more editing down and also, Walters was not really give the chance to develop her character as well as she might but these are really only small criticisms of a very fine film indeed.
It's only March as I write this but I think that this film has a strong chance of getting the jpoc movie of the year award to go with the others that it has already picked up.
This is a brilliant film in the tradition of classics like Whistle Down the Wind and Kes.