Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot

****1/2

Reviewed by: Symon Parsons

Billy Elliot introduces us to the title character, an 11-year-old boy who wants to be a ballet dancer against the background of the mid-80s miners' strike. Both his father and brother are on strike, and his ambitions seem both trivial and effeminate to his family.

But encouraged by his tutor, Billy finds first escape, then rebellion in his dance. And as the reality of defeat in the strike sets in, the entire community finds itself behind Billy.

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The UK seems to have carved out a new sub-genre for itself in the depressed Northern town feel-good story. The impression I get is that you can hardly move in the North of England these days without bumping into frustrated singers, dancers, actors or trombonists.

But you'd be wrong in thinking that this film is a mere re-tread of The Full Monty. Billy Elliot is a more honest film than that, capturing both joy and tragedy - counter-pointing exhilerating scenes of Billy's dance with brutal scenes from the strike.

The film benefits from excellent performances all round, especially Julie Walters as Billy's tutor and Gary Lewis as his dad, crumbling after the death of his wife. But neither overshadow Jamie Bell as Billy, and his transformation from quiet loser to passionate rebel is nothing short of amazing.

Lee Hall's multi-faceted script manages to open up the story behind the strike, touches on sexuality and expression through art while appearing to be just telling a damn good story. This is thanks in large part to Stephen Daldry's light touch as director, plus a great soundtrack which includes T. Rex, The Jam and The Clash.

Billy Elliot is a treat. A film that leaves you with a big smile and a broken heart, wanting it to watch it all over again.

Reviewed on: 19 Jan 2001
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Young lad from up north finds freedom through ballet.
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Read more Billy Elliot reviews:

Angus Wolfe Murray ***1/2

Director: Stephen Daldry

Writer: Lee Hall

Starring: Julie Walters, Gary Lewis, Jamie Bell, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Matthew Thomas

Year: 1999

Runtime: 111 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: UK

Festivals:

EIFF 2000

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