Billy Elliot

Dir: Stephen Daldry, 2000. Starring: Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Julie Walters. English. Drama.
Billy Elliot

Billy Elliot stands out as a musical, a family drama and fiercely insightful look into the sacrificial toll on striking coal miners in Northern England in 1984. Stephen Daldry's direction alternately charms and punches with equal power until you are pulling at your own hair as Billy dances out his frustration through the run down back alleys, over cobble streets and finally into a brick wall furiously, fruitlessly and against all odds.

Billy is the youngest son of a widowed coal miner with an older brother not long in the mines himself, and an invalid grandmother. Coming from the tough and tumble Elliots, eleven year old Billy is naturally enrolled in boxing at school but somehow finds himself drawn to the girls' ballet lessons. Their teacher, the no nonsense Mrs. Wilkinson, sees potential in Billy and encourages his newfound passion and determination not knowing that Billy has kept it a secret from his family. All the while the coal miners' strike puts constant pressure on the Elliots, backing them into financial and emotional corners. When Mrs. Wilkinson procures Billy an audition at the Royal School of Ballet Billy must battle his family for the chance to be something different. Not only from what they know but what they themselves are fighting for.

It is impossible not to fall in love with the brash, loud and sometimes brutal family of Elliots. The mother's absence leaves behind a home starved for tenderness. The father's love is palpable but swings out like a drunken boxer:  never quite hitting the mark while still managing to do some serious damage. There are so many moments that will speak volumes of boy to man, of man to father, of father to son. One such moment between the father and his oldest son on the picket line will make your knees buckle in its naked strength and vulnerability - or a quiet moment on a fence capturing seconds of precious peace before change. Mrs. Wilkinson is a suitable matriarch substitute for Billy with her own love being tough as leather, but what contributes to Billy's artistic potential may be the character who is missing, who is as fragile and worn as her letter written to a baby son before her death.

Performances across the board are extraordinary but, more, they are a joy to watch. For a story so rich in drama and hard truths the characters are brimming with spirit. Wit, physical comedy, unexpected whimsy and some incredible choreography transform the family drama into a rock and roll musical treat with T. Rex sounding perversely revolutionary. Daldry's finest film that hits every mark it aims for in an odd occlusion of targets, is a masterpiece of film making, storytelling and tearpunching. Not jerking. Definitely punching.


Billy Elliot was nominated for 3 Oscars:  Best Director, Best Supporting Actress (Julie Walters), and Best Original Screenplay.

Posted by:
Jessica Kaman
Feb 17, 2009 5:05pm
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