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Heroes of the Zeroes: Billy Elliot

by on February 4, 2010
 

Heroes of the Zeroes is Nick Rogers’ daily, alphabetical look back at the 365 best films from 2000 to 2009.

“Billy Elliot”
Rated R
2000

This is the film about atypical artistic pursuits in the United Kingdom’s blue-collar community that “The Full Monty” sought to be.

Stephen Daldry’s nimble feature-length debut from 2000 offered soulful domestic drama that journeyed far beyond the comic spectacle of an 11-year-old boy in a tutu.

With burning-red ears, hardened squinty eyes and snubbed nose, Jamie Bell’s 11-year-old Billy Elliot looks as if he’s crawled out of a Who rock opera. Billy’s a brawler, all right, but his fighting stances are formal plies and his particularly swift jabs just happen to take the form of pirouettes.

Peter Darling’s choreography dexterously captures the defiance in Billy’s dancing — his rage against economical and emotional repression in his motherless home.

Corralling that proves as challenging for Billy as for his teacher, Georgia (Julie Walters), who could use a muse herself. (Lee Hall’s screenplay draws several understated parallels between the plot of “Swan Lake” and Georgia & Billy’s relationship.)

Ballet becomes Billy’s distraction, and possible deliverance, from an Ireland England in the dumps — where coal miners like his father Jackie (Gary Lewis) and brother Tony (Jamie Draven) alternate fervent protestation of picket-crossers with stewing in silence at the pub or at the cramped apartment they share with a senile grandmother.

Once Billy began to share his journey with Jackie — or, moreover, when his father realized his obligation to encourage a dream different from his own — “Billy Elliot” soared. Fittingly, it detailed the joy of an artist’s discipline, pride, determination and joy working in perfect harmony.