By Caitlin Kelly
I know, not a new film!
But one I’m so happy to watch over and over again…
Filmed in London, Esrington (Durham) and in studio, it’s the story of a young working-class boy , played by Jamie Bell, who dreams of studying ballet, despite the initial anger and shock of his coal-miner father — broke, scared and out on strike.
“Ballet?!” he shouts (sounding like Bally)
“Boys do things like…football, wrestling!”
The film was made for a small budget of $5 million in only seven weeks, and they could only shoot during weekdays because of the actor’s young age — child labor laws!
It has since earned $109 million.
Bell had to endure seven auditions before finally winning the role — beating out 2,000 others!
A few reasons I love it so much:
- If you love ballet and/or have studied it (as I did for years), it shows what discipline it really takes to even get started in this demanding art form as young Billy, then 11, learns turn-out and plies and arabesques.
2. Determination! Billy lives in a working-class neighborhood, surrounded by people whose dreams are usually small and local. It will take a lot of determination to break free, which he does.
3. How much a small boy misses his late mother. She has died young and there’s a lovely scene in the tiny kitchen where she appears to him again.
4. How the local, overwhelmingly macho ethos shapes a young boy — and what if you don’t fit the mold? His friend Michael, gay, is terrified Billy will reject him (set in 1984) and then what?
5. Why sometimes it’s someone far from your family who really sees you for who you are and will fight to make sure you get what you need — Mrs. Wilkinson, his ferocious local dance teacher.
6. The scenes of police chasing down striking coal miners — set to raucous tunes like the Clash’s London Calling — are both poignant and funny.
7. That opening scene with Billy bouncing on his bed!
8. Maybe my favorite scene of all — Billy and Mrs. Wilkinson on a car ferry, The Tees Transporter Bridge, while listening to Swan Lake as she explains the plot to him. The contrast between the industrial surroundings and the ethereal music is perfect!
9. The moment Billy is asked, at his audition for the Royal Ballet School, why he loves ballet…”I just disappear. It’s electricity.”
10. The final image of him soaring above the London stage, his father, brother and Michael there to watch him with pride.
And if you want to watch dancers in rehearsal — getting endless corrections to what already looks physically impossible! — check out the Australian Ballet’s Instagram feed.
Have you seen it?
Do you have a favorite scene?