Billy Elliot : Movie Review

Billy Elliot has been billed as the biggest British Film since Full Monty, the (1997) and it doesn't disappoint.

Set in County Durham at the peak of the miner strike in 1984, Billy Elliot takes you on a journey of emotions culminating in some very funny highs and tear jerking lows.

Jamie Bell is absolutely BRILLIANT in his first feature performance as Billy, an 11-year-old boy who is fighting to grow up within the traditional values of his patriarchal family. Dad, Jackie Elliot (Gary Lewis) and Big Brother, Tony (Jamie Draven) (who often refers to Billy as "Little Twat") are active participants in the miners strike, his granny (Jean Heywood) who "I could have been a professional dancer you know" is losing her marbles and his grief for his dead mother, all make for a difficult heart wrenching life for young Billy.

The Billy Elliot narrative is rather predictable, in so far as a tale of a young boy who turns from Boxing to Ballet, the expected "grim up north" macho stereotypes of the supporting males are evident in the roles of Billy's father and brother.

Tony, Billy's brother is the fighting working class hero who wants to beat the establishment. Jackie, Billy's dad, is struggling to cope as a single parent of 11-year-old Billy, a carer to his elderly mother, and breadwinner for his whole family, without showing any emotion. Although you can envisage the stories before they happen it doesn't make this film any less pleasurable

The transition from Boxer to Ballet dancer is not an easy one for young Billy, he carries the legacy of his grandfather's boxing gloves and the cost of the hard earned 50p a lesson forces Billy to continue the boxing classes even if he can't box; until the local ballet school begin sharing the boxing hall.

The Ballet class consists of little girls in tutus and a bored chain-smoking ballet instructor in the shape of the superb Julie Walters. Billy becomes fascinated with the ballet classes and secretly joins, egged on by his friend Michael (Stuart Wells) who struggling with his sexuality -dreams of wearing a tutu.

Mrs Wilkinson (Walters) sees that Billy has more talent than all the girls in the ballet school put together which includes Billy's first taste of a girlfriend, her daughter Debbie (Nicola Blackwell) who incidentally carries the best line of the film when she asks Billy "Do you want to see my fanny"?

After a great deal of encouragement and bonding with Mrs Wilkinson including her reassurances to Billy that she doesn't fancy him, Billy realises his talent and is all set to audition for the London Ballet school.

BUT in traditional rags to riches style Billy encounters problems in the shape of the traditional masculine values of his father. After battling with his morals and values Dad finally sees Billy has talent and is determined to get his son to London and to the audition which will change his life, Gary Lewis is fantastic as the dad who swallows his pride and values and crosses the picket line for the sake of his youngest son and in the memory of his late wife.

Without giving away the rest of the film the feel good factor comes alive and the resulting trip to London is highly amusing as the working class northern mining family come into first contact with the middle class Royal Ballet School and the ensuing culture shocks prevail.

Billy Elliot Director, Stephen Daldry, has managed some excellent contrasts in the images between the harsh grim reality scenes of blood and fighting on the front line of the miners strike and the dreams and aspirations of a happy Billy dancing through the back alleys of a grey and miserable Durham. The dancing of Jamie Bell is Brilliant to an unexpected soundtrack of T-Rex making for an all round funny and highly engaging evenings entertainment, a definite must see.

Author : Carmen Cheetham