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Overall Rating
4.15

Awesome51.91%
Worth A Look: 25.95%
Average: 10.69%
Pretty Bad: 7.63%
Total Crap: 3.82%

9 reviews, 77 user ratings


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Billy Elliot
[AllPosters.com] Buy posters from this movie
by Stephen Groenewegen

"Gutsy Charm"
4 stars

Billy Elliot dances - wildly, athletically, with an enormous sense of release - to his older brother's T-Rex records when no one's around. As well as being an outlet for an 11 year old boy's energy, dancing also helps him work out the tension of his living situation.

His gruff father, (Gary Lewis) and brother Tony (Jamie Draven) are miners, participating in the drawn-out strike of 1984. His mother's recently died, and Billy has to stop his gran (Jean Heywood) from wandering the streets on her own. With money so tight, Dad is furious when he discovers Billy spending his boxing money on ballet lessons. But Billy's drawn to the ballet class, he can't help moving to the music. The teacher, Mrs Wilkinson (Julie Walters), senses immediately what a talented dancer Billy is, though she's careful not to let on.

Billy Elliot has a cliched story (boy overcomes adversity through love of dance, winning over hostile family and impressing overbearing teacher in the process), but doesn't have a cliched feel. Writer Lee Hall and director Stephen Daldry begin with a glimpse of Billy's home life (so we can understand why dance is so appealing to him), and then establish what Mrs Wilkinson sees in him. When the opportunity arises for Billy to audition for the London Royal School of Ballet, the emphasis shifts to his family - who have to decide whether or not to accept dancing as Billy's possible future.

Billy's father and brother have been little more than pig-headed bullies to this point, but once we're let into their point of view a little, they become more likeable. Hall doesn't give Lewis much to work with beyond the usual - Dad's surly because he hasn't come to grips with his wife's death - but Gary Lewis makes it believable. He invests the familiar moments (taking his wife's jewellery to the pawnbrokers) with real dignity. When he cries, it feels - and looks - like something he hasn't let himself do for a long time. Facing the strikers, in a pivotal moment, Lewis looks bewildered and lost - Dad is unused to seeing things from a different perspective or having his worldview challenged.

The performances are excellent across-the-board. Julie Walters' presence can overwhelm a film (Intimate Relations anyone?). Although she's overbearing here, there's a knowingness to her playing that isn't smug, but invests the role with humour. Gran spends most of the film in the background, but Jean Heywood has a moment at the end that's magic. Dancing since he was 6, this is Bell's first film. By rights, he should be a dancer who can act. Instead, Bell is an actor who just happens to dance. In spite of all the good performers around him, this is Bell's movie, and it's hard to imagine the film having its gutsy charm without him.

Hall's writing is sensitive, and manages not to make a meal of Billy's sexuality. He is contrasted with a gay friend (neither come off particularly badly), and the story moves on. Daldry comes from the stage (this is his first film too), and gives the film some wonderful touches. The girl running her stick along a paling, then across a row of police shields, then back to a fence speaks more about the political situation in Durham at the time than countless shots of miners and police rioting. Unfortunately, this inventiveness is the exception rather than the rule, and there are plenty of heavyhanded rioting scenes at the start. There is some lovely cross-cutting - especially between Billy practising his pirouette at home and in the gymnasium, and the energy of his dancing and the miners' protests. Brian Tufano (who also shot East is East and Trainspotting) gives gritty Northern England a crisp, clear look, and there's a striking transition to winter which effectively tells us that time has passed, without much changing for the characters.

Occasionally there's too much focus on the rock soundtrack, and some of the attempts to match music and image backfire. If the message in the lyrics we're hearing is obvious and banal, there's no reason for the camera to linger. We've absorbed the message, and focusing too long on it risks grandiosity (which is when rock music - overemphasising a trite message - becomes pompous and self-important). I think the film's coda is overlong too. I can see the need for having it, but filling out every moment of what happens is a mistake - we're not left imagining how things could have turned out for Billy, and the other characters we've grown to care about.

There are scenes that will always be cliches, and nothing can get them off the screen fast enough. It's a shame that Hall and Daldry didn't find a way to shorten or avoid the "audition scene", or the "reacting to the audition results" scene. But otherwise, the talented cast and crew have instilled new life into a familiar drama. They've done it without alienating the audience either, or forgetting what makes this kind of story uplifting - and worth telling - in the first place.

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=4464&reviewer=104
originally posted: 11/27/00 12:49:48
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User Comments

2/05/09 Anonymous. the most charming movie i've ever seen, i loved it :] 5 stars
9/04/08 Rachel Hard to understand the heavy accents sometimes, but makes anyone want to get up and dance. 5 stars
6/01/08 David Cohen Cliched tripe without a single likeable character 2 stars
8/14/07 Hello Stranger predictable but awwwwww so great to watch 4 stars
1/26/07 Shanaynay Great characters and very heartwarming and inspirational 5 stars
1/20/07 Davo Brilliant flim, Jamie Bell Superb Actor, can watch it time and time again 5 stars
1/01/07 A The best thing ever. You should also see the musical. AMAZING!!! 5 stars
9/17/06 james fabulous and now that i'm starring in the new musical as billy, it is an inspiration. 5 stars
7/23/06 Daveman A resident of County Durham, I can tesify we do NOT talk like that and we are NOT that poor 2 stars
4/02/06 Riki Who is that kid?! 5 stars
8/18/05 boogy man do you want to see my fanny? hahahaha i have to do it 4 yr 10 baa boooring 1 stars
7/23/05 Captain Craig A WOW..onderful film. Left me wanting more! 5 stars
7/14/05 Rabbi Ledinski I have to study this stupid movie for year 12, it used to be cool, but i'm bored of it. 1 stars
7/06/05 muhammad ehsan it is superbly boring 1 stars
6/03/05 anon amazing film-really good! 5 stars
5/16/05 Litty I loved it but not as much as I love Mcleods Daughters 4 stars
5/10/05 Samantha I think it was pretty, daun good 5 stars
4/20/05 Georgina Definately has entered my list of favourites 5 stars
2/22/05 Captain Craig A really wonder story, well done and quite original 5 stars
1/29/05 movie boi :) gr8 drama :( 5 stars
10/29/04 Elaine Pang Good enough to make my friend cry. bad enough to make another sleep. Could be done better. 1 stars
10/28/04 Kristen I dug it !!! 5 stars
9/27/04 NJ Cup Winner 95-00-03 The gold standard for movies about aspiring dancers living in squalor 5 stars
4/02/04 Paola Great Film Highly Recomended 5 stars
2/14/04 Jose O. Isidro Billy Elliot will always be my number one movie. 5 stars
2/11/04 teri reilly fantastic 5 stars
2/02/04 john bale Simple heartwarming stories sometimes make great cinema, this is one such. 5 stars
9/14/03 J I have seen this movie hundreds of times and it is still the best movie I have ever seen. 5 stars
5/28/03 Jessica I LOVE BILLY ELLIOT! 5 stars
4/30/03 rik i dont trust any critic who doesnt think this is great, because it is! 5 stars
3/06/03 Dina Smith I saw this in school and I tought it was wonderful 4 stars
11/16/02 Big Ted Great film. Very underrated work from Gary Lewis. 5 stars
2/20/02 Xaver Wonderful film...just wish it had subtitles. 5 stars
10/02/01 alf awful tawdry take on english northern life and why were t rex featured in 1984? 2 stars
9/10/01 Malin hln I love the scen when Michael kisses Billy! Its so sweet! And Stuart Wells is very cute!!!! 5 stars
9/06/01 Bada Bing Crosby I can't imagine the soul of the person who thinks this is crap 5 stars
8/18/01 Dana loved it!!!!!!! 5 stars
8/13/01 KCobain Very inspirational. Jamie Bell was terrific. Dance scenes were dazzling. 5 stars
7/28/01 Henry Ginsberg This is not the greatest British film of all time . 4 stars
7/24/01 Pia Wesley Really good movie based on true situations of males being homaphobic. 5 stars
7/10/01 Monday Morning Just like Billy Jack except with dancing instead of head-kicking. Seriously, 'twas lame. 3 stars
6/23/01 Onyx Wonderful story. Enjoyed it. The ending was beautiful. 4 stars
6/14/01 Courtney THIS IS THE BEST MOVIE I HAVE EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE AND IT ALWAYS WILL BE! I LUV JAMIE BELL 5 stars
6/09/01 Girl 9 NO BILLY NO! Everything about this film has been overrated, from the story to the actors. 2 stars
5/17/01 nowak The reviewer for iF Magazine is simply pathetic. 5 stars
5/14/01 Dave Truly a piece of "shite" 1 stars
5/12/01 Emilio Touching, funny, an excellent film! 5 stars
5/05/01 Bada Bing Crosby The only movie I could see myself watching on a daily basis 5 stars
5/03/01 Antonio Excelent!! The best film year!! 5 stars
4/26/01 Twang Kern Zern If I never see another movie in my life, I'll die happy because I've watched Billy Elliot. 5 stars
4/09/01 ChErRyRiPe A touching story that makes us believe all our dreams can come true no matter how difficult 4 stars
4/08/01 Hawkeye A great film- if the acting doesn't stick with you, the soundtrack will. Go see it! 5 stars
4/03/01 Lisa Great Movie. A must see! 5 stars
4/01/01 BILL BUSTER BEST MOVIE I'VE SEEN IN 10 YEARS! 5 stars
3/21/01 Jeferdi MAGNIFICA 5 stars
3/17/01 Steve Wright Wonderful example of talent transcending barriers 5 stars
3/04/01 Suzz loved it 5 stars
2/06/01 Rob One of the best movies ever made 5 stars
1/25/01 Elvisfan If you don't like this, check your pulse, you might be dead 5 stars
1/17/01 Dan Rich I really enjoyed this movie. The contrasts between ballet and violence were very astute. 4 stars
12/19/00 Mic Though cliched, those who think this movie is gay, do yourself a favour and watch it 4 stars
12/07/00 Matthew Bartley Go, Billy, go! 5 stars
12/05/00 A GREAT FILM 5 stars
11/28/00 pipeman Great little flick. 5 stars
11/15/00 basilsmom wondeful, warm and touching Jamie Bell is super 4 stars
11/14/00 Flare28 This was one of the best films of the year! 5 stars
11/14/00 Maureen Inspired me to pursue my talent. I loved this movie! Bought the soundtrack. 5 stars
11/13/00 D Pedersen Aw... how sweet 5 stars
11/10/00 spork-girl you are all just gay-dancing bashing 5 stars
11/07/00 Heather Heartwarming little movie, loved the ending and the T-REX soundtrack 5 stars
11/06/00 Sall S I hardly ever say this with confidence but this movie is a must see! Amazing. 5 stars
10/30/00 neil bartlett heart in the right place. Some inappropriate music & costuming for 198 3 . Take some tissue 4 stars
10/28/00 Rich Knock it all you want, Greg and Oz, I thought it was a great little movie. 5 stars
10/24/00 Daniel Marcusso One of the most wonderful and touching portraits of the childhood I've ever seen. 5 stars
10/22/00 Gonzo Film of the year 5 stars
10/19/00 Klute Pleasant enough, but no life-changer. 3 stars
10/11/00 John JR Absolutely brilliant - tear-jerking, Billy is amazing 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  03-Nov-2000 (R)

UK
  N/A

Australia
  02-Nov-2000 (M)


Directed by
  Stephen Daldry

Written by
  Lee Hall

Cast
  Julie Walters
  Jamie Bell
  Jamie Draven
  Gary Lewis
  Jean Heywood
  Stuart Wells



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