Time: 110 mins.
Academy Award nominations for Best Supporting Actress (Walters), Best Director and Best Original Screenplay.
SYNOPSIS: A talented young boy becomes torn between his unexpected love of dance and the disintegration of his family.
BOTTOM LINE: An uplifting film that explores the joys of self-expression and the magic inherent in accomplishing ones dreams. Jamie Bell is astounding as Billy Elliot, a young Irish boy more interested in ballet than boxing, much to his family's dismay. He's forced to keep his new love a secret from his loutish older brother and overbearing father (Lewis), both striking mine workers struggling to keep the family afloat.
Billy has no idea where this desire to dance comes from, but it's clear to both himself and his teacher that he has talent to spare. Once his secret is discovered, his father forbids him to continue. That is until Billy has the chance to escape their dying town and become something more than just a mine worker, an option his father never had. Walter delivers a well-balanced turn as his teacher, a woman willing to fight for her student regardless of the consequences.
Billy's transition from rough and tumble kid to professional dancer is anything but easy, however, from the start he taps into something special inside himself that must be expressed. Bell gives one of the most honest and natural performances I've ever seen from a child actor. He draws you into the film with his bravado and enthusiasm. The fact that he nails the dancing as well is beyond impressive. This could have been a silly comedy, if not for Bell's intensity and the seriousness of his character's home life.
This is not a complicated tale, but the theme of struggling to achieve one's dreams is one most of us can relate to. Daldry mixes just the right amount of humor, heart and drama to make this a thoroughly enjoyable, if not overly memorable flick. Except for the image of Bell in a tutu. That will stick with you.