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UK 2000
Directed by
Stephen Daldry
110 minutes
Rated PG

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
2.5 stars

Billy Elliot

Synopsis: Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell), a rather gangly 11 year old living with his gran, Dad and brother in Everington in County Durham, becomes interested in a ballet class while he is supposed to be attending boxing class. From a miner's family out on strike this unlikely attraction must struggle to survive against the odds.

Margaret Thatcher should get some kind of recognition from the British film industry for her contribution to its success in recent years. It was she who created the appetite for yet another film set in England's bleak industrial north (albeit here it seems the sun is usually shining) in the early 70s with striking miners holding out for justice from the government and their bosses. In the filmic version of these benighted days, lo and behold along comes music (or in this case, ballet) and the world is magically set to rights. Pretty facile stuff, but it worked for Brassed Off and even more so for The Full Monty, so why not roll it out again? And while you're at it throw in Julie Walters doing her fag-smokin'-tough-nut-with-a-heart-of-gold schtick and surprise, surprise an overbearing father quick with his fists and top it off with an oikish older brother. With all due respect, this is probably the least mundane of the three films, but it's still dreadfully predictable and sentimentalized codswallop seen many times before.

Billy Elliot works the emotional juices for all they are worth (let's give Billy a dead mother and have the desperate Dad break up the piano to keep warm at the Christmas dinner, chuck in some T-Rex and Clash songs and lush symphonic stuff for the climactic points). Successfully so, it seems, as the newspaper ads are blazoned with superlatives from the critics including the claim that it is one of the year's best films . Likes and dislikes aside, however you rate it, it is certainly not that. It is a reasonably well-made feelgood movie that lays on its sentiments with a very large trowel. A lot of people like that sort of thing and the film was a huge box office success that kick-started Daldry's career.




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