County Durham, during the endless, violent 1984 strike against the Thatcher closure of British coal mines. Widower Jackie Elliot and his firstborn, fellow miner Tony, take a dim view of 11 year-old second son Billy’s poor record in boxing class, which worsens when they discover he sneakily transferred to the neighboring, otherwise girls-only-attended ballet class. Only one schoolmate, closet-gay Michael Caffrey, encourages Billy’s desire, aroused by the teacher, who judged him talented enough for private lesson, to train and try out for the world-renowned Royal Ballet audition. Only the prospect of a fancy career unimagined in the pauper quarter may twist pa and big brother’s opposition to indispensable support.
User Reviews: After revisiting this film again recently, I stick my chest out and state proudly that the film touches me on so many levels that my emotions go all over the shop. For a film that is in essence a feel good coming of age drama it is mightily impressive that the film never veers down that street known as sickly boulevard.
Set against the grim backdrop of the English Coal Miners strikes the film tackles an array of subjects, class struggles, fear of homosexuality, youthful adventure in discovering potential adulthood, and the universal joy that music and dance can bring to us all, even in the most trying of circumstances. So many great scenes here that are both happy and sad, Billy’s father feels he has to break the strike to give Billy a chance in life, this leads to a truly heartbreaking scene between him and his eldest son, I weep unashamedly at the realism of it all, the dancing is just wonderful, with too many great scenes to only pick just one out, the film is a seamless classic that ticks every box that I personally require from a film like this.
The cast are magnificent, Jamie Bell perfectly layers the lead role of Billy by fusing confusion, joy, fear, hope, and sorrow into one almighty performance. Julie Walters is up to her usual standard of greatness, whilst Gary Lewis as the father is nothing short of tremendous, they all can take a bow for making such a wonderful movie. The soundtrack is music gold, you can never have enough T-Rex in your life, ever, and I ask if there has ever been a more appropriate use of music than the use of The Jam’s-Town Called Malice? Paul Weller’s up tempo beat belies it’s sombre lyrics, the song is about a town besieged by unemployment, a great scene accompanies the song as Billy dances out his frustrations down the street; "you either cut down on the beer or the kids new gear, it’s a big decision in a town called Malice".
Brilliant! Maybe I’m biased because I remember the miners strikes, a sad and desperate time for the industry that was about to go under, perhaps I love it for the sheer sympathy the characters garner, or could it just be that it’s an incredibly human story that is laid out fantastically well with an ending that demands a positive response from the viewer? Either way it rates 10/10 for me and it always will.