Billy Elliot’s Brilliance into Ballet

For my next critique, I’ll be tackling the Stephen Daldry 2000 movie, “Billy Elliot”, which is about an 11 year old boy who has quite an unusual talent for his time. Set around the 1984 coal mining strike in rural England, it was one of British actor Jamie Bell’s first roles, and paved the way for a Broadway and West End musical, with music scripted by the legendary singer Elton John.

Jamie Bell stars as the titular Billy, a prepubescent youngster who lives in the mining town of Durham in the mid 1980’s. Billy lives with his father Jackie (Gary Lewis) and brother Tony (Jamie Draven), who both value their traditional, masculine backgrounds in the coal industry and his forgetful grandmother (Jean Heywood), with his mother having passed away a year earlier. With Jackie and Tony participating in a mining strike picket, the police have to be called in to restore some semblance of order to the community.

Billy keeps busy by taking boxing lessons in the local hall, but he proves to be less than stellar in the sport. Following a mediocre boxing lesson, he is cajoled into joining in on a ballet class taught by Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters). There, he finds that ballet awakens an inexplicable need in him,  and so he begins to attend the class in secret, for some time at least. Eventually, an enraged Jackie finds out about Billy’s less than masculine extracurricular activity, and orders him to be pulled from the class. But can Billy deny his dancing dreams, or do greater pursuits beckon in his future instead?

The performances from all the actors are all superb. I simply can’t fault a single one of them for how authentic and natural they felt. Bell is excellent as the quietly determined Billy, the always fantastic Julie Walters is on top form in an Oscar nominated role as the encouraging dance coach, and Lewis and Draven are also decent in their roles as Billy’s initially distant father and brother, and Stuart Wells serves well as Michael, Billy’s best friend who is harbouring a secret of his own!

The story is propped with an array of memorable scenes, from the opening shot of Billy jumping on a trampoline in midair to the strains of T-Rex’s “Cosmic Dancer”, or Billy letting out some steam to the Jam’s “A Town Called Malice”. My own personal favourite scene comes about towards the end of the movie, where Billy is questioned about what dancing feels like. His response is simply heartfelt, and it inspired what is perhaps the musical’s most recognizable song, “Electricity”.

“Billy Elliot”, is possibly one of the best British movies that I’ve had the pleasure of viewing. I used to watch it devoutly as a child, and Billy’s struggle to remain true to himself despite the adversity from his family resonated with me, as I’m sure it has for others. In fact, Elton John himself was inspired to write the music for the stage show as he related to Billy’s fraught relationship with his father, since it was similar to the one he had with his own.

“Billy Elliot” earns a grand total of five out of five stars. It offers a brilliant takeaway message of perseverance in regards to your dreams or ambitions, and to never give up, no matter how fruitless and impossible it may seem, as it just might pay off in the end. Plus, I’d recommend checking out the musical show if you loved the film, Elton John, or if you simply love musical theatre which has catchy songs and valuable messages, then it might just be up your alley!

Recollections of an Inspirational Teacher…

In response to The Daily Post’s writing prompt: “Teacher’s Pet.”

I’ve had my fair share of teachers during my school years who’ve aided me when I found their particular subject to be too much of a hassle (which was very much the case for mathematical based subjects). Besides that one slight hindrance, I was something of a nerd in school, and actually looked looked forward to learning. However, I might not have enjoyed school if it hadn’t been for my career studies teacher.

He also functioned as the school guidance counselor, but he frequently took us for extra  guidance sessions throughout our last year of school, as is often the case with the majority of schools. By the time my last year of school rolled around, I was aware that I was different from a vast majority of my classmates. While they talked of going to parties and nightclubs during the weekends, I was more than content to sit at home and study, while listening to 80’s music.

When I wasn’t talking to the guidance counselor regarding which college course I wanted to pursue, we were discussing whether I had the potential to do well in life. He assured me that I was just as capable as even the brightest minds in that school. For the first time I could remember, someone saw potential in myself that I couldn’t glimpse. I felt immensely blessed that a person could place so much faith in me to do well in life. I felt that our relationship drew a sort of parallel to “Freaks and Geeks”, where former Mathlete turned freak, Lindsay Weir, has the constant support of eccentric, yet well-being guidance counselor, Jeff Russo.

When the last day of school beckoned, the first task I busied myself in carrying out was in bestowing to him a gift certificate and a bottle of champagne. Unbeknownst to me, he had a present for me as well- a copy of “Catcher in the Rye” by J.D. Salinger. Throughout our weekly (and sometimes daily) sessions, I’d confessed to wanting to read that precise book. I was amazed that he’d remembered a detail as trivial as that. Inside the cover page was the inscription “Believe in yourself and aspire to greatness”.

Many years later, I have indeed aspired to be great, and thus feel more confident than I ever felt when I was at school. Whenever I come across the copy of “Catcher in the Rye”, I think of my former school guidance counselor, and hope that I can someday inspire another individual just as he did to me. And his input and support has made all the difference in my life.