In a nutshell, Billy Elliot is an inspirational film about a talented boy that wants to be a professional ballerina set amidst a miners' strike during Thatcher's era in Northern England. The movie is fairly typical of inspirational films and follows the formula closely, but it feels neither over dramatized nor does it end predictably. I was so sure that the film was either a biopic (it isn't) or an adaptation (guess again) because of the multidimensional characters and writhing backdrop of players and politics. Two actors are worthy of special mention: Gary Lewis plays Billy's father, Jackie Elliot, with such an incredible range of seething emotions that he never once falls into an archetypal role or stereotype. Jackie is a lifelong miner with a narrow world view, so when he sees Billy dancing for the first time, the expected anger is there, but it shares equal space and time in his actions and eyes with fear and guilt. Fear, perhaps, that his son may be ridiculed, that he may not have raised him right, and guilt because his deceased wife, Billy's mother, was a music lover and dancer, passions that Jackie does not or will not share after her passing. The other actor, Jamie Draven, playing Jackie's elder son, Tony, seems like a one-trick pony, a reckless youth propelled through the film by punk music. Yet it's a disingenuous performance from the character, a small town tough exaggerating the act but crumbling under emotional strain many times, when his father fails to meet his expectations, when he discovers Billy's predilection for ballet, when Billy leaves.
I admit that I wouldn't normally choose to watch a film about a 10-year-old ballerina, male or female, but was compelled to by my wife. It has become a permanent part of our collection and though I may still not reach for it before, say, Hot Tub Time Machine or Dark City, I watch it without griping, enraptured by the nuanced performances, funky soundtrack, and, admittedly, as an Anglophile, getting my fix however I can.
For those who care, it doesn't pass the Bechdel Test, and I'd recommend that if you're not comfortable with your sexuality, give it a pass, as there's a bit of boy kissing. Roll your eyes elsewhere. Conversely, if your response is "Who gives a s***?" then proceed.