"Billy Elliot" is like "The Full Monty," "Notting Hill" and "Four Weddings and A Funeral" before it; the kind of movie that is high of spirits and eager to please. Which works almost always for these British films, with sharply drawn characters and an ear for how people from the UK would actually around each other."Billy Elliot," while easily belonging in that category, stands out on its own as a uniquely inspirational story. And while not successful all of the time, it has a lot of elements that bring all the story together. The boy wants to be a ballet dancer instead of a boxer. The ballet teacher who prides so much in knowing this boy wants to dance and follow his dream. The angry father and son who are both in the midst of a coal miner's strike. You can look at this movie from any viewpoint and it still works pretty well.
Set in the early 80's, Billy (Jamie Bell) is this boy dancer, who is immediately accepted by both his teacher Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) and his classmates. Knowing he does not have a shot at becoming a boxer, he knows where to put his talent. His reason for doing this may have something to do with his father Jackie (Gary Lewis) and his brother Tony (Jamie Draven) who are at war over the coal strike. It gets so intense, in fact, that violence will occur to anyone who crosses a line to work and both Jackie and Tony are at odds with the public, and each other. But Billy presses onward. He wants to get out. Nothing in the town interests him, and he is excited at the idea of Mrs. Wilkinson helping him get into a ballet school in London.
What I liked is how these two viewpoints come together very well. We see the ballet story from Billy's eyes, which is alive and happy (The music by "T-Rex" plays an important character for Billy) and the Jackie/Tony relationship, which falls apart and resolves itself by Billy's determination.
Right up until the last reel of "Billy Elliot," we would have one of the year's best films. Everything that happens in the first 90 minutes are strong and very emotional. It just goes downward when the Jackie character reverses his attitude somewhat inexplicably, and then helps Billy to go to London and the plot gets formulatic. And the film's entire final scene, while nicely done, is utterly useless. It could have been excised with no cost to the narrative flow.But "Billy Elliot" is still a strong film overall. It's even surprisingly insightful at times (in one tracking shot of the police barracades, a young girl taps a stick along a wall, then onto police barracades, then back onto a wall without even noticing). Director Stephen Daldry has made another strong entry into the British "feel-good" films that only marginally goes wrong in the end, but it shouldn't disappoint too much.