ELLIOT, although following a formulaic,
heart-warming plot — disadvantaged child
strives against the odds to achieve a
seemingly unattainable goal — shines in
its innocent acting and genuineness. Yes,
the plot was predictable, but there were
some stylistic scenes, including the opening
scene, that distinguished the film. In
the opening scene, Billy energetically
bounces on his bed, but the bed isn't
shown. All the viewer sees is a boy leaping
in the air, set against a yellow-printed
in Durham, England in 1984 amid miners'
strife and striking for higher wages,
the young prodigy-in-the-rough shines
through. Billy (Bell) is an 11-year-old
boy who goes to boxing lessons weekly.
After failed attempts to be a true "Rocky"
and comments from his coach like, "You’re
more dance than punch," and "You’re
a disgrace to those gloves," Billy
is drawn to the music of the ballet lessons
taking place in the opposite side of the
Everington Boys Club gym. From then on,
Billy covertly ducks his boxing lessons
and devotes his energies to ballet, all
the while hiding his ballet slippers from
his dad (Lewis) and brother, Tony (Draven),
both of whom are involved in the explosive
labor situation. The only pair of pants
amid the tutus, Billy sticks out and grabs
the attention of cynical, crabby ballet
instructor, Mrs. Wilkinson (Walters).
Billy’s clandestine ballet exploits, his
best bud, Michael, also harbors a secret.
One day Billy pops over to Michael’s house
and sees him wearing his sister’s dresses
and donning makeup. Further adding to
his pal's mystery, Michael warms Billy’s
hands after they both build a snowman.
When Billy asks him what he's doing, Michael
leans over and gives him an affectionate
peck. Although not comprising a major
theme in the movie, Michael’s homosexuality
emphasizes Billy’s masculinity as he athletically
dances and flirts with a ballet classmate,
secret is discovered when Billy’s father
barges in on ballet lessons to find his
son amid a sea of pink tutus. Enraged
and embarrassed, Dad forces Billy to quit.
As with all denied things, the goal only
becomes more desirable and important.
At Mrs. Wilkinson’s suggestion, Billy
begins taking private lessons. After extreme
bonding, she urges Billy to try-out for
the Royal Ballet School in London. But
Billy misses his audition when he has
to appear in because of his brother's
legal difficulties. Mrs. Wilkinson shows
up and thus fires a heated debate between
Billy’s dad, Tony, and Mrs. Wilkinson,
forcing Billy from the house in a dancing
fury. Reminiscent of the frenzied and
emotive dancing of SWING KIDS, Billy dances
furiously and crashes into a wall at the
end of his street, symbolizing his frustration
and the familial barrier he faces.
the tides of emotion turn in the Elliot
household. Billy’s father allows him to
try out for the Royal Ballet School. Making
the journey to London, Billy’s FLASH DANCE-esque
try-out comes to a halting anti-climax.
After punching out a little boy trying
to comfort him, the judges reprimand Billy
and dismally send him home to await word
of acceptance or rejection. Weeks later,
a letter arrives by mail, and Billy hesitantly
opens it to find …
sorry, but I couldn’t spoil the ending.
Realizing the typical narrative structure,
you should be able to intuit the final
scene. I did like this movie primarily
because of the strong acting by newcomer
Jamie Bell and pro Julie Walters. Overall,
Stephen Daldry makes a huge feature film
debut success with BILLY ELLIOT.