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BILLY ELLIOT

Starring: Julie Walters, Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis
Director: Stephen Daldry
Rated: M

IN Billy Elliot, director Stephen Daldry pictures a large billboard advertising a washing machine. Behind the washing machine is a handsome young man with his arms folded and a satisfied look on his face. The caption reads, “Your ever faithful washday slave”. In the grime and dirt of a northern English mining town, any man or machine that might help out with the washing is an expected bonus. It’s clear however, that, “We’ll ‘av nun of that ’round ‘ere”. The price of the machine and the sensitive new-age guy is a fantasy for the people of Easington, Lynemouth and Ellington.

The family of 11 year-old Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) are working-class men deeply involved in the northern English miner’s strikes of 1984. The Elliots have been going down the mines for generations. Billy’s mother died in 1983, leaving behind his father (Gary Lewis), his brother Tony (Jamie Craven) and Grandma (Jean Haywood). Billy is a kind and sensitive boy.

Boxing is the other Elliot family tradition into which Billy is initiated. He is hopeless at it. At the end of the boxing hall, the girls take ballet class with Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters). One day Billy stays behind and joins the class. He has natural poise, good rhythm, balletic extension, energy and expression.

As the miners’ strike deteriorates further and Mrs Wilkinson lines up an audition for Billy at the Royal Ballet School in London, all hell breaks loose at home and on the streets.

Billy Elliot is one of the most powerful family dramas in years.

The only gaff I noticed was how Brian Tufano’s love of sunlight streaming through high windows even extended to nighttime scenes!

This film is more than a “weepy”. It is not a “girls’ film”. Every Catholic mid-secondary boy and girl should be taken to see it. It is a moving exploration of clashing cultures, the nature of masculinity, fathers and sons and “seizing the day”.

It is a long time since I heard a cinema full of cynical film critics weep at a film. Only the hardest heart could not be moved and entertained by Billy Elliot. This new-age reviewer is proud to say he saw it and wept.

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