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This is hands down one of my favourite films of all time!! Set during the Durham Miner's Strike under the Thatcher government, it follows one young boy as he dreams of becoming a ballet dancer.
Of course, in a town filled with miner's who's families have never left that town, and who are more occupied with the strike, a young boy who wants to do Ballet is not exactly something that is easily excepted. Made in 2000 even today, it is still a film that's story touches thousands of people.
Jamie Bell plays Billy in the film, and at such a young age his acting is extraordinary. And that's before I even mention the dancing! It's superb, you really believe that he is a child who wants to dance, and is the only person in the film who appears to actually have hope when surrounded by such misery.
Another stand out performance of course, has to be that of Julie Walters, playing the ballet teacher who is the first to encourage him, and obviously teach him everything he knows. In this film, she is brilliant, perfectly capturing the character, and creating comedy at times too.
This is a British classic. In my mind, it is one of the best films to come out of British Cinema, and really sets a standard for film making. It's inspirational, funny, moving and something that will stick with you a long time. It has even gone on to produce the musical version, which is now showing in The West End and has been for the last ten years!
If there was one film I could recommend you seeing, whoever you are, it would be this film.
This is my favourite film of all time! I love it. The storyline is fantastic and very realistic. The film is set in a very difficult time, during a miners strike. Billy's dad and older brother are both affected by this meaning times are hard and money is short. Billy is forced into boxing by his dad but hates it. When the ballet class have to share the boxing hall Billy discovers a love for dance. At first he is intrigued but scared to join in. He knows the other boys will mock him and his dad would disown him. After being convinced by the dancing teacher to join in, he loves it and takes to it like a natural. He returns to classes each week and after hard work his teacher wants to send him to the royal ballet school. He father still doesn't know about the dancing and when the teacher aproaches him he flips out. Eventually he comes around to the idea and takes Billy to London for an audition. Billy is lucky enough to be accepted and goes on to be the lead in Swan Lake. A very moving film with fantastic acting and dancing.
This film is set during the 1984 the mining strike, in the north of England. The main character is Billy (Jamie Bell). His father (Gary Lewis) and his brother tony (Jamie Craven) Are miners and are on strike. But somehow they still manage to find the 50p a week for his Boxing lessons.
The Boxing class and the ballet class are forced to share the same space as the normal space for the ballet has been turned into a soup kitchen for the striking miners. After his boxing lesson Billy gets drawn to the ballet. He hears the music and starts to watch and after a bit he starts to join the class.
Billy is a natural, but he has to keep his dancing a secret from his parents and brother, he steals library books, practises his moves in the bathroom and hides his ballet shoes under his mattress. He soon attracts attention from his teacher Mrs Wilkinson where she notices his talent and they soon strike up a friendship where she wants to help him improve all she can.
Obviously his father finds out, it would be hard to keep that secret for too long in the town that they live in and he is obviously angry. He doesn't understand why Billy would want to do ballet, especially with the whole gay connection that was even more so in the 80's.
I really enjoyed this film its very heart warming and makes you smile. I found that I really felt like I could connect with all the characters in this film even though some of them like Billys father could not be any more different from me.
I found that the film was made really well, especially the fact that it was made to look like the film was in the past in the eighties. I really enjoyed the side storyline of the miners strike because it really added to the story of it being in the 80's.
The music in this film is amazing including T-Rex and the Clash. The music really makes you want to get up and dance at points as well as making you smile. It really fitted with the film really well. Nothing seemed out of place.
I really liked the fact that Billy had enough confidence to go for what he wanted and to fight for it. I know that from a farming town background where they are behind in the times even now a male ballet dancer would get laughed at (not by me I love the arts) but there are still so many people that don't understand, I know that my father would be one of them!
Billy Elliot is an amazing story of how determination and courage for something you believe in can lead to success. I think this film sends out such an inspirational message, a young boy struggling to show his passion and flawless skills for dance.
The film was bought out in 2000 and was directed by Stephen Daldry. The film is set in 1984 in an northern English mining town, in which miners are on a strike, making the atmosphere tense. Amongst all the despair, a young boy Billy Elliot discovers a truly amazing talent for dance when stumbling upon a ballet class when finishing his boxing class. Thus brings in the character of Mrs Wilkinson, beautifully played by Julia Walters. A fiery ballet teacher, who spots Billy's talent and is willing to due anything to help him pursue his dream, makes sure he will get into the ballet school.
However, whilst Billy tries to focus on his dance, he is caught up in conflicting issues, like his fathers breakdown after his mother's death. Billy's father and brother are both on strike and are very manly. When they find out about Billy's secret ballet classes they are livid. They do not understand why he want to become a ballet dancer, but because Billy is so determined to carry his dream on, he confides in Mrs Wilkinson and carries on with secret ballet lessons.
One drunken evening Billy's father stumbles upon Billy dancing in front of one of his friends. Billy summons all the determination he does and performs a flawless dance in front of his dad. His dad is so overwhelmed by how brilliant his sons talent, that he decides to raise as much money as he can to help Billy enter the ballet school. However, is all that hard work for nothing, or will Billy find something amazing out of his hideous surroundings?
The soundtrack is great for this film, mostly made up from T-rex, a real love of mine. It suits the film perfectly, creating a real motivational background for the film but also making It brash at the same time. There is so much attention to detail in the film that it is no wonder that it was nominated for 3 BAFTAs. I think this film is brilliant for a real good hearted watch, it is so moving and you just admire Billy throughout the film. Finally, someone can stand up and say, what is wrong in what I believe!
Overall I would highly recommend this film because you really do get that amazing feeling when watching it. The acting is strong, from a great cast of people and the children dance and act impeccably. A definite five out of five stars!
Until they released the musical, and it became a world-conquering institution, 'Billy Elliot' used to be categorised alongside 'The Full Monty' or 'Brassed Off', because it combines the struggle for survival of working class men in Northern England with music and dance. It's a reasonable enough point. The main difference, however, is that this is quite a serious film, not a comedy with a social context, like the Full Monty.
Brassed Off was closer in tone, but as its characters were mostly sympathetic, it was too easy to feel sorry for their desperate situation. Billy Elliot's family is harsh, bigoted and cruel for much of the film, and it's very difficult to empathise with them until towards the end, when it starts to become clearer that it's their desperate situation which has made them so unable to relate to each other. When the older brother and father eventually decide to help Billy, it's so they can save him from the mine that they are condemned to work in.
This film is also not really a comedy, with depictions of police brutality and angry mobs of striking miners. More than any of British cinema's more recent successes, it recalls 'Kes' most strongly, with its theme of a young boy pursuing his dream in spite of the opposition of cruel family members. Luckily, the tone is slightly lighter.
Beyond the striking miners, the period is also evoked most effectively through the presentation of music. Billy's brother's prize possession is a huge and unwieldy turntable, and the horribly fiddly process of putting on a T-Rex record just reminds us all how great CDs are (even when they do stick to that circle thing in the middle of the case - it's like record companies want you to bend them out of all shape).
This is partly because of the nature of Billy's passion. Young Billy Elliot decides that he wants to become a ballet dancer, and has to overcome the bigoted views of all the macho miners in his community who believe that ballet is for wimps and homosexuals. Billy learns from a stolen library book and a chain-smoking instructor, practising pirouettes in the bathroom. Most of the film's comedy comes from the attitude of the men to Billy's hobby, but it's an attitude that is common today. I dread to think how we'd have treated male ballerinas at my school, and that was a cosy little country comprehensive.
This contrast is most clearly shown in one of the film's earliest scenes, at a community centre. On one half of the hall, the boys are taught boxing, while behind a screen, the girls are learning ballet. It's an inflexible attitude towards sexuality which is subverted both by Billy and by his friend.
Its themes aside, Billy Elliot is a good piece of cinema. It plays with the cream of early 80s music (my highlight was 'London Calling' by the Clash), and the dance routines in the middle of housing estates make for some striking images. It's just a shame about the Steven 'Boyzone' Gately pop pap that pollutes the closing credits. One day they'll make a successful British film without these embarrassing musical associations.
There's a solid supporting cast, with several actors from the Royal Shakespeare Company, and the ever-reliable Julie Walters. I was particularly pleased to see Desmond Barritt as the man in charge of the community centre. You may remember him from the RSC's film of Midsummer Night's Dream. You know, the one without Calista Flockheart (is that really her name? Goodness). The immortal Geoff from Byker Grove also makes an appearance, hurrah!
Unfortunately, the generally plausible atmosphere of class despair slips a bit towards the end. Without giving too much away (ahem), the tone lurches from kitchen sink to fairytale, and I would have prefered a bit more of a hint that the hard work doesn't end just because your initial obstacles have been overcome.
It would have been nice if this film had received a bit of Oscar recognition, but it was never really going to compete with Russell Crowe in a leather skirt. Leather what? Wow, and they say ballet's for wimps...
This film is definitely essential viewing, so don't be put off by the fact Elton John did a musical version. Billy Elliot provides a fairly realistic view of British life in the early 1980s.
2000 has been a pretty poor year for films but 'Billy Elliot' ranks as one of the few highlights. That said, it is not without its' defects.
The plot is fairly straightforward - young boy wishes to learn ballet, his father (mother is deceased) won't let him so he practices in secret until the necessity of furthering his natural talent forces him to encourage his father to support him. This is further complicated by the miner's strike of the late '70s / early '80s in which the film is set. Young Billy's father and elder brother are too preoccupied with defending their living to support or even acknowledge him. The scene is set.
Often, however, you get the impression that the miner's strike is little more than a backdrop to a film about childhood innocence, and as a result the tension of the miner's conflict with the police are understated. In one scene, Billy walks along tapping a stick on a wall, which becomes a line of riot police with shields, then another wall. Funny it may be, but it shows an indifference to the plight of the miners that is irritating. It would have made for a more interesting subject matter.
A stronger area of the plot is the inter-family tensions produced by Billy's deviation from the norm. His father and brother rage at him constantly, bicker internally on how best to defend themselves, the grandmother provides useful comic relief at times and the dead mother even makes an appearance for a touching sombre moment. The family unit functions very well in this film - it is believable and realistic.
Less convincing is the relationship between Billy and his ballet teacher Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters). We are left to assume that Billy's prodigal ballet talent can only really be identified by his teacher, as the opening dance scenes give little clue to it. The sight of Billy in full boxing gear among two dozen ballet girls is good visual humour, but stretches believability too far. Walters takes on the role of the middle-class Wilkinson very well, especially so in scenes of conflict with Billy or his father.
Although the serious political side of the film leaves you wanting a little, the comic touches are excellent. The sequence including Billy's interview at the ballet academy is exceptional, particularly where he meets with another hopeful applicant - though it would be unfair of me to spoil the surprise for those yet to see it. Both Billy and his father pull off the lower-class-fish-out-of-water humour brilliantly, making this one of the film's clear highlights.
Recently the film has come under severe criticism for the levels of swearing in it, which is unfair. Apparently the general public still refuse to accept that young children do know what swear words are and have no qualms about using them - in this respect, 'Billy Elliot' is a fairly accurate reflection of life. It is far more offensive to see graphic or sexual violence in films, which this picture does not include at all. In this case, it would make the film just as unrealistic as having none of the characters swear.
The ending won't leave you dumbstruck, but it will put a smile on your face. Ultimately, Billy Elliot is a heart-warming if slightly unrealistic film. Forgive it its few flaws and enjoy it.
This is an absolutley amazing and uplifting film.
It can be very funny in places and then also quite sentimental and touching in others.
It is based in County Durham where a we follow a young boy growing up in a working class, mining family.
Despite his Dad pushing him to go boxing every week, Billy sees the ballet dancers who are sharing the hall he boxes in, and immediatley takes a shine to the dance form.
Behind his fathers back, he leaves boxing and attends the ballet lessons, where he is the only boy in the class. However, he progresses far faster than any of the other girls in his class.
His father ends up very angry but in the end he realises his sons potential and Billy ends up in the Royal School of Ballet, going on to perform for the Royal Ballet.
An amazing film, and definatley one of my favourites.
The first time i saw Billy Elliot was when i stopped round a mates house and she put it on. My initial reaction was why is she watching this?
As the film went on, i started to understand the storyline and get into it. The cast are a great choice as they really seem to connect with their characters.
The story is basically about a yound schoolboy who does not have a mum. His dad and older brother are both coal miners and make him go to boxing. Billy on the other hand prefers to go to ballet and his ballet teacher persuades him to audition for the Royal Ballet School as she thinks he has real potential and could go far with it. His dad goes mental when he finds out but wants billy to be happy so when there is a strike at work with his older son being amongst the protesters, he still goes to work so he can afford to send billy to the ballet school.
This is a great family drama which deals with family issues and hopes and dreams.
Billy Elliot is a great family film that shows the ups and downs of a family of coal miners. It teaches a great lessons and is a fantastic film for everyone to watch.
In the film, Billy Elliot is the son and brother of coalminers. He is given boxing lessons by his father but would prefer to learn ballet instead. In secret, he takes ballet lessons. Then, his father finds out and amongst the coal miners, this is a sign that Billy just isn't right. His teaches thinks he is very good and pursuades him and his Dad to let him audition for the Royal Ballet School. What happens next will move everyone and will send you on a rollercoaster of emotions.
The cast is very good with some fantastic acting. The picture quality is good and the sound is clear. The story is easy to understand so everyone will be able to watch. The message is good and teaches a good lessons about never giving up.
The single disc edition contains biographies on the cast and film. These are very informative. The 2 disc version contains more but aren't worth the extra with only deleted scenes and commentaries.
Overall, a great family film that will touch everyone.
This is one of my favorite movies!! :)
It's not just funny, heartbreakingly hilarious at times, it also makes you cry in some bits, & then chortle with laughter!!
No, what I found was this is a movie I can relate to!
Very warm, human,.. 'like life is'...
Characters are not polished 'Hollywood' princesses or princess, or tycoons & pashas.. No, they are real people, from the real world...
Working-class, rural, kinda backwaters kinda place... & I can really relate to that as I sorta grew up in such a place!! :)
So anyone who ever grew up in a small town or had artsy tendencies or felt even an itsy bit misunderstood, may relate to this film..
Jamie Bell is excellent as Billy Elliot.. - slightly odd, slightly rebellious young lad.. Just a boy really.. who instead of boxing - discovers a great desire & talent to - dance!
What greater shock for a miners' community & his manly dad..!! (& brother..)
Both Dad (played by Gary Lewis) & brother Tony (played by Jamie Draven) are quite excellent & very believable in the role of coal miners - on strike, as it is!
Sometimes there's violence, sometimes laughter, sometimes harsh words.. but you can see the family is glued together by stronger ties than pretty Hollywood polish...
But can those ties survive something as shocking as... ballet?
I mean, just remember what your Mum said when you unwisely blurted out you wanna be a 'actress' or, an astronaut... (equally likely.. I guess)
The ballet teacher Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters), who first recognizes Billy's talent, is quite appropriately nonchalant, strict & supportive.. Her daughter Debbie was quite hilarious in her wishes to 'play nookie' with young Elliot...
& well, Billy's best friend may be impressed with his best friend's ballet attire a bit too much... :)
Some minor support roles are also quite excellent! Jean Heywood as Grandma... basically all of the miners at the strike & at the pub...
Awesome - & slightly unusual, in a good way! - dance scenes.. on streets, on rooftops, everywhere!!
For all fans of dancing, slightly odd & funky characters, & real feel-good stories...
I really had to giggle when Billy went to audition... It did remind of all the similar 'dance movie' scenes - from Flashdance on.. But the film still manages to remain unique & 'British' enough & not fall into the traps of cliches (too much)!!
Some really unforgettable scenes.. that you will giggle about for years after!
I admit I found the final dance scene a bit 'over the top' but well.. I guess they had to show London arts scene in all its splendour!! :)
I love musicals, music & dance in general.. this is not your typical music or dance film, but somehow it is much much more...
I decided to take the plunge and watch this film as it then came out in a stage show so I thought I would watch the DVD and if I enjoyed it I would go to see the stage show as I love going to the theatre.
The setting is County Durham in 1984, during the British miner's strike where 11-year-old Billy's dad and older brother are both miners on the picket lines.
Billy's dad scraped together the fees to send him to boxing lessons, but Billy played by Jamie Bell whilst at the boxing lessons found that the hall was shared with ballet lessons too and he decided to take Ballet lessons instead. When Billy's father finds out he has been taking lessons he is furious as it's not a macho sport and as it was not seen that a boy should be dancing like a girl unless he was gay.
The teacher, Mrs Wilkinson played by Julie Walters thinks he should audition for ballet school in London as he has a raw talent. Unfortunately his father refuses to let him audition. He is ultimately won over, however, when Billy gives him a private dance performance so passionate that even he is moved. So, Billy then goes off to London for the audition. I will not spoil what happens next you will have to watch it to see.
This is a really good British movie, that both inspires and entertains in equal volumes and I would recommend that you watch this. For people of all ages and it will have you laughing in parts too.
I was about as dubious of going to see the film "Billy Elliot" as his father was about the concept of his son deciding to do ballet in the film, which is an interesting parallel I suppose, as it is kind of what the film is about - tackling taboo subjects. What exactly is wrong with a boy wanting to do ballet? It's the 21st century and some people have a very strange idea about what is right and what is wrong. Anyway, that aside, I was instantly enchancted by the movie, which has so many great scenes and some amazing lines (one of which still makes me laugh out loud and is an exchange between Billy and his female friend (girlfriend? Who can tell) and is so unexpected and I would hate to give it away here. Anyway, even though it does fall into a generic "everything is going to be okay - you can just tell" pattern in places, it is still a beautiful film with some wonderful acting turns from Jamie Bell, Julie Walters and the wonderfully underrated Gary Lewis - who plays Billy's dad. If you haven't seen this film then you have to get it, it is very modestly priced now
Billly Elliot is by far the most gripping film that i have watched. It not only demonstrates the grim British life of a poor family but it potrays a hunger for a young boys pashion.
Billy is from a poor coalmining family and is taking weekly boxing lessons at the local gym hall, when he discovers the fascination of ballet when he stumbles across Mrs Wilkinsons (Julie Walters)dance class in the next room. He begins taking the classes and enjoys the thrill from dancing but is tormented by the fact that his family would dis-agree with what he is enjoying, and the thing he wants most of all is for their support. His life at home makes him push for success in the world of dancing with positive outcomes.
This film will have you greatly admire the dancing of such a young boy, and will no doubt have you holding back tears of happiness, by the end of it.
This is a fantastic film and I am sure this immediately made lots of boys want to become ballet dancers!
Its a british film with a great cast and tells the story of Billy a working class kid who attends Ballet lessons and is the only boy there but the teacher, Juloie Walters soon discovers he has a real talent and aims to go about persuading Billy's dad to let his son try for a scholarship at the Royal Ballet School in London.
Billy's dad is having none of it at first and is completely ashamed of his son, calling him a faggot etc etc, but slowly comes round, Billy trys for the scholarship and gets a place.
The film follows the story of Billy coming of age and the stigma around boys dancing and the end where Billys dad and brother go to a ballet where the grown up Billy is performing is breathtaking, great stuff!
The basic story behind the movie Billy Elliot is a very familiar one a child from a poor family discovers a hidden talent, but the family doesn't approve of the talent and/or hasn't the funds to help (in this case, its both). Can the child triumph through adversity? Well, come on if not, there's no reason to make a movie of it, is there? So yes, this type of story isn't a new one. The question then is what, if anything makes the movie Billy Elliot special?
If you ask me (and you wouldn't be reading this review if you weren't interested in my opinion), I would say that firstly, the addition of irony and juxtaposition played a major role in making the story line of this movie fresher. The miner's strike of the 1970's isn't an unusual backdrop for this type of movie, but using the struggle to point up Billy's struggle, and the strike's failure to put a damper on Billy's triumph certainly was an excellent and refreshing tool. One may also note that there is an internal struggle that Billy's father must feel at not being able to properly provide for his family. Often that type of situation makes a man feel emasculated. Then he finds out his son wants to dance ballet instead of learn how to box. It might (back in the mid-80s the time when this movie is placed) have made a man feel that he'd turned his son into a homosexual. Of course, we know better today, but that's hardly the point, isn't it?
Secondly, Julie Walters (who is always a pleasure to watch) plays the part of the ballet instructor with her usual well-known brash. However, just when you think she might take this part and go far over the top with it (which might have ruined the film), she turns around and puts in a perfectly understated performance which convincingly reflects the realities of her character. For instance, if she had been jumping all over the place at Billy's success, taking all or a large part of the credit, we might have dismissed this film altogether. Instead, the character realizes that whatever Billy does or doesn't do, her life goes on as usual. She well deserved her Academy Award nomination and BAFTA win for best actress in a supporting role for this part (but I will always regret she didn't get one for "Girl's Night"). This is certainly kudos for this go to both the script and the direction.
Next, I would say that solid performances by all the actors made this a very even film. What I mean by this is that Walters didn't steal the show, nor did even Jamie Bell's BAFTA winning performance make us feel like it was a 'one man show'. No, this was a team effort and we could feel it from the cross-dressing friend to the father's frustration at the strike to the grandmother's encouragement to the ballet teacher's daughter's pre-adolescent sexual curiosity this is a film that comes together as a solid unit, and that's rare indeed. Again, the script and the direction keep these things from either falling between the cracks or becoming over stated.
But that's not totally why I like this film. You see, beyond a doubt, I love to watch people dance. So why wouldn't I like this film? And yet, this isn't like watching Fred Astaire taking an already polished female hoofer off for a spin across the floor. What makes this special is the way we watch Billy learn his art and develop his own style not necessarily what the Royal Ballet is looking for, but certainly the spirit was there, and the raw material. The audience joins in his agony when he's learning to spin, and applauds when he finally gets it right. We are involved in the process, and that is something very special. And being involved in the process not just Billy's but the whole family's process as well as his teacher's process is what makes this human and real to us. Perhaps Jamie Bell's own similar biography regarding dance came into play here, since I understand that this is the case. If so, it only helped in making Jamie perfect for the part and keeping it from turning into a saccharine 'coming of age' story, which we've all seen far too much of over the years.
I have to insert here an observation about the film editing. Probably the finest dance film editing I've ever seen was the opening to the movie "All That Jazz" with a mind-blowing spin sequence that's yet to be topped. However, I have to admit that there are some truly excellent pieces of cinematography in this film as well especially when Billy is jumping on his bed or learning to spin. Since the backdrop of this movie is hardly pretty, this type of film work brightens up this movie beautifully.
Finally, the original script (which also got several award nominations) is overall excellent. From the dialogue to the smallest details of the plot, this film enchants us. And it doesn't enchant with its wonderfully amazing wit, but rather with its down-to-earth honesty. Of course, there are those who would say this is a typical "feel good" movie, with many predictable turns. To those people I would say "so? What's wrong with that?" Don't we deserve a little uplifting entertainment from time to time? Must everything be harsh and nasty? I say no this world needs more stories that make us happy for its protagonists, and allows the progress of the story without violence or bloodshed, without being syrupy and silly. This script delivers this in spades.
In sum, this is a film that shouldn't be missed! The acting is even and strong, the story has just enough conflict and realism to it to keep us interested throughout, the direction is strong enough to keep the film cohesive and giving us a 'team work' feel without being over handedly stifling or too light to allow the 'stars' to run wild with their parts. What's more, you'll certainly feel very good when the final credits start to roll. What more could one ask? So, even after all these years, I'll still give it five stars and wholeheartedly recommend it.
Thanks for Reading!
Davida Chazan © March 2001, updated July 2006.
The official web site for this is still open and can be found at http://www.billyelliot.com/ and rated R but only because of some minor foul language.
The two disk special edition of this film is available on DVD through Amazon.co.uk for £6.97 or the marketplace from £5.94.
I understand that this movie later inspired a stage musical, which only goes to show that you can't keep a good story down!
Foursquare in the gritty-but-hearwarming tradition of Brassed Off and The Full Monty comes Billy Elliot, the first film of noted British theatrical director Stephen Daldry. The setting is County Durham in 1984, and things 'oop North are even grimmer than usual: the miners' strike is in full rancorous swing and 11-year-old Billy's dad and older brother, miners both, are staunch on the picket lines. Billy's got problems of his own. His dad's scraped together the fees to send him to boxing lessons, but Billy's discovered a different aptitude: a genius for ballet dancing. Since admitting to such an activity is tantamount, in this fiercely macho culture, to holding up a sign reading "I AM A RAVING POOF", Billy keeps it quiet. But his teacher, Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters, wearily undaunted) thinks he should audition for ballet school in London. Family ructions are inevitable. Daldry's film sidesteps some of the politics, both sexual and otherwise, but scores with its laconic dialogue (credit to screenwriter Lee Hall) and a cracking performance from newcomer Jamie Bell as Billy. His powerhouse dance routines, more Gene Kelly than Nureyev, carry an irresistible sense of exhilaration and self-discovery. Among a flawless supporting cast Stuart Wells stands out as Billy's sweet gay friend Michael. And if the miners' strike serves largely as background colour, there's one brief episode, as visored and truncheoned cops rampage through neat little terraced houses, that captures one of the most spiteful episodes in recent British history. --Philip Kemp