First Impressions: Billy Elliot (2000)
Friday 21 November 2008
It's 1984 – the miners' strike is on – and Billy (Jamie Bell), a whey-faced stripling from Durham, is still reeling from the death of his mother. Billy's father and brother (both on the picket-line), are too wound up for cuddles and his weekly boxing class is adding insult to injury.
Then one day Billy stumbles across ballet. As it turns out, he's a natural, and dancing teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters) wants him to try for a place at the Royal Ballet School. But how can he think about auditions when his family are getting ever more deeply involved in the strike?
Despite, or perhaps because of, all the hype surrounding theatre man Stephen Daldry's directing debut, it would be easy to take against Billy Elliot. Lee Hall's script gropes for heart-strings from the word go, while the soundtrack is one of those ubiquitously jaunty affairs (T Rex, The Jam) that editors hope will cover over all dramatic cracks.
Thank goodness, then, that its final message is a little more complicated and the strike scenes hair-raising for all the right reasons. None of this would count for anything without the right cast. As it happens, they're near perfect. Bell has enough energy to set a wind-mill spinning, while Walters makes us believe in a character so droll she can't take her own loneliness seriously. Gary Lewis, meanwhile, avoids all the dignity-under-pressure clichés as Billy's father.
Determinedly mainstream, Billy Elliot doesn't push you anywhere you don't want to go. A strike, poverty, sexual awakening, joy... This is Lynne Ramsay's Ratcatcher with the i's dotted and t's crossed. In other words, it's as raw a slice of escapism as you could wish for.
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Barbarians vs Samoa interrupted by sprinklers as fans criticise lack of Wi-Fi and poor seating at West Ham's Olympic Stadium
- 2 Watch the Supermoon live: How to see the brightest Moon of the year tonight
- 3 Hulk Hogan wants to be Donald Trump's running mate in the US Presidential election
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 David De Gea to Real Madrid: Real finally get their man with £29m bid for Manchester United goalkeeper
Game of Thrones season 6: Jon Snow theorists believe Ned Stark's son may have a twin sister
Edinburgh Fringe 2015: Monty Python-inspired Australian Sam Simmons wins comedy award with 'very silly' show
X Factor hopeful Mason Noise: 'How is Cheryl Fernandez-Versini in the music business, let alone a judge?'
Game of Thrones season 6: Director promises most exciting premiere yet 'starts off with a bang'
Star Wars: The Force Awakens: Online toy marathon to launch new film
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up