Billy Elliot (2000)

Billy Elliot is another of those movies that I've been meaning to watch forever but kept putting off for no reason whatsoever. It looks like a charming film though so I finally watched it. And boy, it was not charming.

Set against the background of the 1984's Miner's Strike, the film follows Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), an 11-year-old boy who prefers ballet to the brutal boxing he is supposed to do. When his father (Gary Lewis), who is involved in the strike with Billy's older brother (Jamie Draven), finds out, he is in big trouble. That, however, won't stop him from practising with the help of Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), the ballet mistress, while his father's work situation and the problems at home get worse.

In terms of plot, there's nothing new here. There's the typical conflict of lower class families, the dead mother, the sympathetic teacher who really believe in the boy and pushes him, the disapproving family, and the typical semi-emotional happy ending where the underdog wins and everybody loves him for who he is/what to be. It's basically a cliché after another cliché. It's all things we have seen before and, in my opinion, director Stephen Daldry failed to make it feel fresh. As a result, the story didn't fully engage me and I didn't care much about the outcome --it was quite predictable anyway. There's also a guy subplot, but it could have been developed a bit better. 

There is, however, something I liked about Billy Elliot's story. It's the fact that it isn't really about a boy who wants to be a ballet dancer nor about the Miner's Strike --although they both have a huge role--, it's about finding something that makes you feel good, that makes everything bad disappear. And that is brilliantly delivered towards the end of the film when Billy is asked what does it feel like when he's dancing, and he replies, "Don't know. Sorta feels good. Sorta stiff and that, but once I get going... then I like, forget everything. And... sorta disappear. Sorta disappear. Like I feel a change in my whole body. And I've got this fire in my body. I'm just there. Flyin' like a bird. Like electricity. Yeah, like electricity."

Universal Pictures, Focus Features
The characters are pretty good though. They are complex and believable, they are quite interesting and well developed. What truly makes them shine is the cast. Jamie Bell is wonderful as Billy Elliot. Everything Billy does or say or feel feels very genuine because of him. Also, he has a great screen presence and he's able to carry the film on his young shoulders. The supporting cast is great too, especially Julie Walters as Mrs. Wilkinson, a chain-smoking ballet instructor. Gary Lewis and Jamie Draven both do a good job respectively as Billy's father and Billy's brother. They both manage to deliver the emotions of the characters without really displaying them --they indeed hide them under masculinity.

Another redeeming aspect of Billy Elliot is the camera work. There are some very interesting shots and angles. The cinematography is also quite beautiful and so is the score. 

7 comments :

  1. I haven't seen this movie in ages, I barely remember it. It's probably something I'd watch again if it came on TV. Great review!

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  2. It's a film that has its moments due to its soundtrack and cast but I often have mixed feelings about it. Plus, I'm not a fan of Stephen Daldry as I often liken to him as the Oscar-bait equivalent to Michael Bay.

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  3. I actually quite enjoyed this film and it may seem predictable but since it is not a Hollywood film, you just never know. I remember this being all the rage when it came out and I was hoping for musicals to come back but they haven't. This kid is now 29!? God....I was 36 when this flick came out...my mind is bending

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  4. Ricordo che all'epoca ce lo fecero vedere a scuola in VHS.
    Non è il mio genere...

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