Retro Review: Billy Elliot

Remember those little British movies that have electrified us over the past couple years. I am talking about movies like “Saving Grace”, “The Full Monty” and “The Commitments”. Well this latest little import has all the charm and attraction of those little films.

“Billy Elliot” tells the tale of a boy named Billy who is learning how to be a boxer. Billy’s dad preaches that all men must know how to box.

He also tells Billy that if he becomes good enough maybe one day he could leave their dead-end mining town and become somebody.

As Billy enters boxing classes, his little town is over-run by a “union strike” against the company who operates the mine. Embroiled and intertwined within the strike are Billy’s older brother and father.

As violence erupts, the police stranglehold the town and force everyone into a state of martial law. The more the violence intensifies, the more it inflicts upon Billy thus resulting in him looking for any way to escape the cruelness in his world.

One day Billy is clobbered by a fellow boxer and this really frustrates him. As Billy’s doubts his boxing future, he learns that the gym he trains in, will now be shared by girls who are studying to be ballet dancers. When Billy loses his next fight and angers his dad, he becomes even more desperate to escape his world.

He turns his attention to the ballet girls one day after boxing class and becomes a little curious. He watches them prance around and exercise and becomes captivated by the majesty of it all. Is Billy escaping his cruel world or has he found a new bright hope in his future?

“Billy Elliot” is a delightful little film but has a couple pitfalls that may hurt some North American viewers. One of these pitfalls lies in the language and harsh Northern British accents.

It took me the first 20 minutes of the film to become familiar with the dialect. Then I had a couple hard times with trying to understand some of the slang used in some of the scenes. Aside from these cultural points, Billy is quite addicting.

It’s addicting in that we really feel for Billy and all the things erupting in his life. I was a little squeamish during some of the scenes where the director dumbs down the union violence with some uplifting rock song. This helped keep the tone of the film but never really worked for me.

I loved the scenes where Billy begins to change and hide his new found love from his “overly masculine and insecure” father.

I liked that he wasn’t scared to follow that dream even though it may affect his world in an unpredictable way.

A lot of movies never really chronicle the majestic beauty found in the ageless performing art that is “ballet”.

Billy really tries to captivate this majesty as a curious young man wants to know more. Like all films about the subject we witness the intense physical aspect of ballet but unlike the films before we really begin to see the attraction to the art.

The scenes that characterize this begin when we see the flow of dance brewing inside Billy as he breaks into dance in the decaying streets. It was a joy to see the scene of when he finally dances in front of his stubborn dad. The rebellion, the coupling of dance and boy, and his rhythm really were majestic.

I have always enjoyed films about dreamers and what they must go through to achieve their life-long obsession. This in part relates to me and what I am doing with these reviews. It is always nice when a film can make you look a little inside yourself as you take in a little inspiration.

Our dreams are precious and no matter what life throws at you never give up on them. This film, like a lot of others, teaches us that. This one is for all the dreamers.

(3.5 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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