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BILLY ELLIOT

SYNOPSIS:
At the height of the British miners' strike, young Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) is reluctantly carrying his family's hopes of becoming a boxer. Despite his widowed father (Gary Lewis) having been a renowned pugilist, Billy can't seem to get the hang of it. With space at a premium due to the strike, a ballet class run by Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters) moves into the gym. The sight of the girls dancing strikes a chord with Billy. When Billy's Dad and older brother Tony (Jamie Draven) make it clear they regard his dancing as much as a betrayal, he begins attending the classes furtively. But in the small town, it's only a matter of time before Billy will have to face the music.

"Dazzling in every way, Billy Elliot is one of those films that makes you feel all the richer as a human being. Just like The Full Monty charmed us with its wry humour and engaging characters, Billy Elliot has a similarly uplifting effect. It's simply a knockout. My spine tingled throughout this wonderful film; it pushed every emotional button imaginable for me. Admittedly I was a mess when I left the screening, but what an astonishingly exquisite experience it is. Great story-telling from a subtle yet forceful script, superlative performances, clever editing and great direction by theatre director Stephen Daldry; his extraordinary film debut allows us to discover the story for ourselves in a simple, yet moving way. It's a film of contrasts - the juxtaposition of the celestial minor notations of Swan Lake in its setting of a harsh mining town in the middle of a strike, heightens our acute emotional appreciation. The opening sequences reveal the circumstances in an uncluttered and uncomplicated way, when they are anything but. Billy's introduction to dance in the local boxing hall is a paradox: how can we forget the images of this little boy with the crooked smile dancing in the boxing ring? The subsequent development in relationships between his frustrated, tough-as-nails dancing teacher (Julie Walters, marvellous), his friend Michael with a sexuality crisis (Stuart Wells, affecting) and his bereaved, angry father (Gary Lewis at his best), is handled with measured assurance. The characters simply jump from the screen straight into our hearts. Jamie Bell as Billy is a revelation - he is instantly lovable, not in a cute, but in a real, heart-jolting way. The dancing is inspiring, none more so than the performance Billy gives defiantly for the most important audience of all - an audience of one - his father. Poignant, funny and overwhelmingly moving, Billy Elliot is a major triumph, richly deserving the highest accolade."
Louise Keller

"There is a dogged realism throughout Billy Elliot that is contrasted by a small dose of magic realism, which comes off with a strong whiff of irony in the setting of a working class Durham. The story has all the classic elements of finding a way to make your dream come true, of finding your destiny, of being true to yourself, of being brave in the face of pressure . . . in other words all the elements that Hollywood like to use when baking its cinematic cake. In the hands of the English, these elements acquire a new taste sensation, handled more roughly, more with an eye on the gritty reality of provincial poverty-stricken lives. The only moment this English characteristic slackens is in the turnaround of attitudes by the working class dad and Billy's brother, shifting from bigoted ignorance to enlightened support. Jamie Bell's unfaltering performance, however, convinces us that Billy is capable of engineering such a turnaround in his folks. Julie Walters and indeed all the cast, display the strengths of English character acting at its finest, and the film provides oodles of audience satisfaction. It is both uplifting but profoundly sad at times, and full of insight."
Andrew L. Urban

"There seem to have been more dance movies this year than any time since Fred and Ginger hung up their tap shoes. From Bootmen to Center Stage, the allure of the dance seems to have captivated filmmakers. It has to be said, some of the efforts have been pretty ordinary; but Billy Elliot is certainly the best of them. That's because director Stephen Daldrey has enough sense not to let the dance get in the way of his story. Instead of using a thin plot as an excuse for his dance sequences, Daldrey folds them neatly into the dramatic mix. And while he doesn't miss pushing any emotional buttons, with a couple of exceptions, he avoids mawkish sentimentality. Young star Jamie Bell plays Billy with just the right amount of wonder, trepidation and suppressed emotion; and his contrast with the gruffness of Gary Lewis as his Dad and the barely restrained anger of Jamie Draven's Tony adds immensely to the drama. Julie Walters gives her expected strong performance in an understated role (for her) as the determined Mrs Wilkinson. While the plot hardly breaks any new ground (it's parallels with The Full Monty, for example, are obvious), it's refreshing to see Daldrey and writer Lee Hall didn't fall for the "let's-put-on-a-show" cliché. Instead they let the story unfold as their characters develop. Although it's far from perfect, Billy Elliot is a heartfelt look at one boy's struggle to fulfill his dreams."
David Edwards

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HEAR Andrew L. Urban & Louise Keller talk about the film in Real Audio.

CRITICAL COUNT
Favourable: 3
Unfavourable: 0
Mixed: 0

See Jenny Cooney Carrillo's interview with

JAMIE BELL

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BEHIND THE SCENES

TRAILER

BILLY ELLIOT (M)
(UK)

CAST: Jamie Bell, Jean Heywood, Jamie Draven, Gary Lewis, Stuart Wells, Mike Elliot, Billy Fane, Nicola Blackwell, Julie Walters & Carol McGuigan

DIRECTOR: Stephen Daldry

PRODUCER: Greg Brenman, Jon Finn

SCRIPT: Lee Hall

CINEMATOGRAPHER: Brian Tufano BSC

EDITOR: John Wilson

MUSIC: Stephen Warbeck

PRODUCTION DESIGN: Maria Djurkovic

RUNNING TIME: 110 minutes

AUSTRALIAN DISTRIBUTOR: UIP

AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 2, 2000

VIDEO DISTRIBUTOR: Col Tristar Home Video

VIDEO RELEASE: May 9, 2001

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