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The 365 Best Films of the 2000s

Heroes of the Zeroes: Billy Elliot

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.

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7 Responses to “Heroes of the Zeroes: Billy Elliot”

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  2. […] challenging drama was directed by high-toned director Stephen Daldry (“Billy Elliot” and “The Reader”) and adapted from Jonathan Safran Foer’s bestselling novel by […]

  3. Topher says:

    I show this film in my class on social deviancy. I believe it shows the social construction of deviance, followed by deconstruction of deviancy on so many levels. Billy, knowing how he will be seen by his community attempts to hide his desire to dance. His father is seen as deviant while crossing the picket, even though working for a living is not deviant. Tony’s dance to "London Calling" is the metaphor that I believe really makes the statement that society is extremely hard on those it sees in a negative light, whether it is a male ballet dancer, a scab, a boy who likes to wear women’s clothes, a woman who isn’t sleeping with her husband, or a young man who stands up against the law. The one deviant who is excused is the grandmother, because of her senility.

  4. Nick Rogers says:

    Carrie-Anne: So verified and so noted. Thanks for the correction.

  5. Carrie-Anne says:

    Ireland?

    NO

    I THINK you mean Newcastle…bloody annoys me when people say this is an Irish film!

  6. Nick Rogers says:

    We’re hoping to see it there as well.

  7. Lauren Whalen says:

    Really loved this movie. As my last Commentary indicates, I am a true believer in the power of dance to change lives.

    I also liked what I saw of the stage musical–can’t wait to see it next month in Chicago!