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.
Final Top Gear reviewTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michelle Watt's father says TV presenter killed herself because she was in constant pain
- 2 Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
- 3 'Help me I'm trapped in a factory' messages keep being found on bottles of vitamin water
- 4 North Korean defector flees to Finland 'with evidence of chemical testing on humans'
- 5 Greek debt crisis: The photograph that conveys the despair of Greece's elderly
Bad luck, One Direction: Paul McCartney doubts success of The Beatles will ever be matched again
This is surely the best way to watch Jaws
Game of Thrones season 6: Daenerys actress Emilia Clarke says '50/50 chance' Jon Snow is alive
The last decade has produced just four UK festival headline acts
What if Nicolas Cage played every character in Game of Thrones?
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Nathan Collier: Montana man inspired by same-sex marriage ruling requests right to wed two wives
Forget little green men – aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
Girl, 7, stares down hate preacher at Ohio festival with pro-LGBT rainbow flag gesture