Stars: Jamie Bell, Julie Walters, Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis
There’s no mistaking, “Billy Elliot” is a plum of a feel-good, movie, but one well-handled and not overdone.
Billy Elliot is an eleven year old boy, the younger of two sons in a one-parent household. It’s 1984 and his hometown in northern England is in the throes of a bitter miners strike and both his older brother, Tony (Jamie Draven) and father, Jackie (Gary Lewis) are out on strike, just scraping by to make ends meet. Billy’s chores include taking care of his elderly, ill grandmother who lives with them.
His father graciously gives Billy 50-pence each week to take boxing lessons after school but what really catches Billy’s eye is the ballet class taking place in the same gym. He watches intently as the tough, chain-smoking instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), barks her orders to her all-girl charges. Pretty soon, Billy is handing over his 50-pence for ballet lessons and keeping the whole thing quiet from his family. It’s obvious that Billy is one determined boy whose love of dancing is about to take him to a new realm, even though he fears being seen as a sissy.
Mrs. Wilkinson, who up till now, has shown a decided lack of exuberance during her classes, perks up considerably as she watches Billy and soon comes to believe that he’s got what it takes to zoom ahead in this field. She’s got her eye on London’s Royal School of Ballet for him despite strenuous opposition by Billy’s men-of-the-earth brother and father. The only support Billy gets is from best friend Michael, a lad with a penchant for wearing his sister’s clothes and makeup.
Billy goes through trying times and his father and brother struggle daily with the miner’s strike.
This is all handled sensitively and with wonderful humor as we edge our way to the expected uplifting ending, but all seems plausible with the exception of the too-quick turnaround by Billy’s father from staunch antagonist to resigned and then supporter. The movie is also a tad too long.
Lotta says: Billy Elliot is a fine British import. Rated “R” for language and some violence.