Dance like a man
"Inside every one of us is a special talent waiting to come out. The trick is finding it."
Well, in my case, the challenge was more to find out which character in Billy Elliot truly discovered a secret talent more than the others.
Set in a small, working-class town, this warm-hearted film tells the story of, well, Billy Elliot.
A lanky teenager, he isn't keen on boyish activities like football or boxing, but finds his interest drawn to ballet dancing.
Consumed by a vocation that is not conventional for his gender and circumstances, his many problems disappear when he throws himself into a song.
Billy Elliot also tells the story of Billy's father struggling to keep his dignity under trying circumstances -- financial difficulties, a failed marriage and the task of raising two, outspoken, stubborn growing boys.
Dancing, Billy says, makes him feel 'like electricity'. So he sneaks off to attend ballet classes conducted by Miss Wilkinson in the same gym where the boxing ring is set up. And under her guidance, his raw talent begins to take extraordinary form.
Miss Wilkinson who, after being unable to live her dream of making it to the Royal School of Ballet, decides that she will devote her life to helping someone else live it against all odds.
Billy's dad, already under tremendous stress, blows his lid when he discovers his son's interest and tries very hard to beat the
thought out of his mind.
Whilst Billy displays maturity beyond his years in understanding the delicateness of his situation, he is driven by a childish stubborness to refuse to give up what is dearest to him. But aware of the odds that he is up against, he thinks of throwing in the towel.
But Miss Wilkinson is convinced that the National School of Ballet is his destiny.
Her desperate attempts to convince Billy's family don't get very far. However, when Billy's father realises that it is impossible to exorcise Billy, he decides to give it a shot. He sums up the courage to believe in his son's dream, even when he can scarcely fathom it himself.
With the only obstacle in his path behind him, Billy manages to win the hearts of the panel at the National School of Ballet with his endearing devotion to dance as much as his prowess in the art. While there is a small attempt at suspense when Billy receives
the post from the School, there are no free tickets for guessing he is in.
With a plot as uncomplicated as that, Billy Elliot is a marvel of brilliant screenplay and flawless execution. The film, though, is likely to win more hearts at Cannes than at movie theatres.
Jamie Bell, who plays the title role, started dancing when he was only six. And, much like his character in the film, faced a lot of oppositon and ridicule.
The dance sequences, beautifully choreographed by Peter Darling and performed to flawlessness by Jamie, are a delight. The effort that he has put into the character shows.
The relationship and chemistry between Billy and his dance teacher Miss Wilkinson (acclaimed stage and screen actress Julie Walters, who received an Oscar nomination and won a Golden Globe for her touching performance in Educating Rita), is more like they are contemporaries a student-teacher.
Billy's dad, Gary Lewis (My Name Is Joe, 1998) brings superb colour to the character of Billy's struggling father who is central to the story, even though he doesn't have too many reels.
The camerawork in Billy Elliot is different. Brian Tufano, who has shot such edgy films as Trainspotting and Shallow Grave manages to pull you in and out of tension as if you were directly affected by the vicissitudes unfolding on the screen.
All in all, it would be fair to cast Billy Elliot in the genre of films like Footloose and Flashdance as it strikes a chord with dancing enthusisasts -- but without any of the latters' glitz and production numbers.
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