This movie is set in North East England, the year is 1984. Durham Coalfield is a major employer in the area. A strike has just been called. This is a tight knit community, which is being greatly affected by it. There is also a lot of strife between the workers honoring the strike and the ones that aren’t (aka “scabs”).
Billy (Jamie Bell) is an 11 year-old boy who lives with his father, older brother and grandmother. His mother died the previous year. The family is poor and facing even tougher times due to the strike, both his father and brother worked for the mines.
He is expected to follow in the older male’s footsteps. Which includes learning to box. At his boxing lessons he is even wearing the boxing gloves that both his father and grandfather wore. It is also predictable that he would end up working at the mine when he gets older.
As it turns out, Billy is very bad at boxing. However, there is a ballet school located in the same building. He becomes intrigued when watching the ballet class practice. The teacher goads him into practicing along with the girls and he finds that he likes it. Billy ends up secretly attending dance classes instead of his boxing lessons.
When Billy’s father discovers what he has been up to, all hell breaks loose. He tells him no more dancing or boxing lessons. His ballet teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters – yes, it’s Mrs. Weasley from Harry Potter) thinks Billy has real talent so she offers to continue secretly teaching him for free.
She thinks he is good enough to audition for The Royal Ballet School in London. They work together to create a dance routine for his audition. There is a wonderful scene of the two of them dancing together; it’s such fun to watch.
The music they picked for the movie fit well. There are numerous songs by T Rex. However, my favorite song in the movie is “London Calling” by The Clash. It plays during a confrontation between the strikers and the police, with particular focus on Billy’s brother (Tony). It’s an incredibly intense scene, which the song fits perfectly. Besides, it’s just an awesome song.
Jamie is amazing in this movie. He had been dancing since he was six (he was 13 when the movie was being filmed). However, this is his first acting job, but you would never know it. He is so expressive and absolutely carries the movie. Jamie has this incredible sweetness and honesty about him, which comes through in his performance.
Although, this may be Jamie’s movie, the other actors are great too. There are so many incredible scenes; many that will bring tears to your eyes. It’s just a wonderful and uplifting movie.
Some of my favorite quotes:
George – “This is man-to-man-combat, not a bloody tea dance.”
Mrs. Wilkinson – “So, do we get the pleasure of your company next week?”
Billy – “It’s just … I feel like a right sissy.”
Mrs. Wilkinson – “Well, don’t act like one.”
Michael – “You won’t ask for a tutu?”
Billy – “What for?”
Michael – “To dance in.”
Billy – “I’d look a right dickhead.”
Michael – “I think you’d look wicked.”
Mrs. Wilkinson – “I’ve been thinkin’ of The Royal Ballet School.”
Billy – “Aren’t you a bit old Miss?”
Mrs. Wilkinson – “Ooh, not me, you!”
Billy – “Don’t pick on me ’cause you f*cked up your own life!”
Billy – “I don’t want a childhood. I want to be a ballet dancer.”
Billy’s Dad – “It that absolutely necessary? Walk normal, will ya?”
Side note: Jamie Bell stars alongside Evan Rachel Wood in Green Day’s music video for “Wake Me Up When September Ends”. It’s an interesting/well done video, basically it’s like a mini movie.
Following is additional information about the movie that contains spoilers. If you don’t want to be spoiled don’t read any further.
What an incredible scene, when Billy’s dad catches him dancing after he told him not to anymore. Billy decides to stand up to him and continues his dance. This is when you can really see what a great dancer he is. His father finally realizes what talent his son has and that this may be Billy’s way to a better life.
The ending is fantastic, Billy all grown up and performing the lead role in “Swan Lake”. His father, brother and childhood friend, Michael are all there to see it. His father is so proud of him. It’s very touching.