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500 Five-Star: Billy Elliot (2000)

January 14, 2013

Being from the North East of England, I suppose I should have seen Billy Elliot before now. Honestly though, it just isn’t a film I was ever remotely bothered about seeing. I missed it at the time of release, and in the years since I’ve seen enough Stephen Daldry movies to make me care very little about ever seeing any more (though, as he’s-devastatingly, for me-slated to direct the movie adaptation of ‘Wicked’, I guess that means I’m going to have to put my prejudices aside yet again). I should also point out that, while knowing it was set in the North East, I actually didn’t have a clue that it was also set during the Miner’s Strikes. Having worked within the community of a small town in Durham, and seen just how much of an impact Thatcher had, and still has, on the area (because this is a film blog, and not a politics blog, I will be polite and leave it there, but trust me when I say it partially kills me to do so), I have no doubt that I would have watched ‘Billy Elliot’ a lot sooner if I had known that particular fact.

As it turns out, I enjoyed ‘Billy Elliot’ very much indeed. Did it blow me away? No. Did I think about it for very long afterwards? No. But, you know, it was solid: an enjoyable, and extremely well-constructed story, with a great central performance and some very touching moments. I loved the dance sequences and the central, very real, relationship between Billy and his father, but I do suspect that much of my appreciation came as a result of the references to local history. Were I not from the North East, I doubt I would have felt quite so much of a connection. I was also very intrigued by the ‘by the numbers’ feel of the film as a whole. It felt very much like Daldry was ticking boxes in the triumph-over-adversity genre, but given that I’m thirteen years late in viewing it, it’s also entirely possible that ‘Billy Elliot’ was the forerunner in a revitilisation of that particular kind of movie: a rule-setter, rather than a follower. Given ‘Billy Elliot”s success, I’ll give it the benefit of the doubt and assume it offered something new at the time; sadly, however, seeing it so late seems to have removed some of the film’s power.

Verdict:

Two hours well-spent, but ‘Billy Elliot’ is not a film I feel any need, or desire, to watch again any time soon. For that reason, I must disagree with Empire and give it only…

****

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