★ ★ ★ ★ ★
THIS IS a series where I re-watch films in black & white. Is there a reason for this, maybe. Does it change my viewing experience, marginally. Am I saying that films are better in black & white, certainly, definitely not in absolutely no way. Am I doing this out of genuine filmic curiosity and fun, 100%.
BILLY ELLIOT (Jamie Bell) is a movie I have grown with. It came about in an era of the 2000s. It was a confusing time, we realised we were living in a new world but were still 1990's minded. The internet was a real thing, DVD's were coming in to take away our crappy video tapes. This has nothing to do with a movie about a young 11 year old in the mid 1980s wanting to become a ballet dancer. But this is the era that I happened to have seen it in and the connections have stuck.
THE STRUGGLE of the 1984—85 miners' strike is the backdrop for this 11 year old. His dad (Gary Lewis) and brother (Jamie Draven) are struggling to make ends meet as they proudly stand on the picket line. His mother died not that long ago and his family are still grieving. Billy lives in a Working class village where everything is black, white, & coal. His father is able to afford 50p for his boxing training but Billy gravitates towards the ballet school that is sharing the boxing hall.
BILLY'S INNOCENCE is at the heart of this film. It breaks my heart to see his dad struggle to keep his son away from the reality of the world and to see how it is still effecting him. Billy's talent for dance is at first seen as a slap in the face as his 50p was meant for boxing, not for "freaking ballet". The battle between was is meant for either gender is a massive one in this world. Billy is afraid of the connotations of enjoying ballet comes with. He almost doesn't show up because he doesn't like to think of himself as a sissy of "poff".
THE ADULTS in Billy's life are really a very supportive team. His brother acts like a second father and is very protective. His ballet teacher (Julie Walters) sees something in Billy and guides him to realise he may have another avenue he can take in his life. They all have Billy's best interests in mind, it almost makes me cry.
FINALLY THE dancing itself. Jamie Bell has such a genuine aura on film, his energy beams from everything he does. His dancing while erratic at times is rather beautiful. You see the kid through his moves, you see the weight of his troubles on his slightly hunched shoulders. But you see the joy of the movement as the throws himself about the room, the streets, the boxing hall. This film is here to celebrate the passion of a young boy who happens to have a teacher who saw that raw passion that his family too come to understand Billy's ability.
TIMES WERE hard, the men were hard, but they were hard to the reason to keep their family's warm and fed. Standing up for yourselves when you know the system is flawed takes a lot of pride. Standing by your men for their right to be treated with respect. These themes flow through Billy's story too, it takes pride and allow your son to stand up and become who he needs to become.