"Billy Elliot" opens to a hesitant hand putting on a record. The music plays and a boy vaults into the air. Set among the hovels of the mining district in County Durham, North England, a backdrop of poverty and grim skies, an 11-year old boy, Billy Elliot (Jamie Bell) discovers a passion that dares him to dream beyond suburban drudgery.
Enticed by musical strains from the ballet-end of the gym, he identifies a predilection for this form of dance, and secretly pays the dance instructor Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) the fifty pence intended for his boxing lessons. The only boy among a class-full of tutu-clad girls, his poise and dedication earn him the special tutelage of this indomitable tutor.
Nominated for his first Academy Award, director Stephen Daldry has exacted convincing performances from all actors; however, Jamie Bell, in the lead, has managed to pull off a commendable feat with his portrayal of a self-conscious boy questioning his deviance toward a "less manly pursuit". Harshly critical at first, Gary Lewis, playing Billy's frigid widower dad, takes a detour later in the movie in his approval of his son's chosen recreation.
A very predictable plot anchored to a reminiscent offing firmly places this movie in the slot of "been-there, done-that" films. The heavy accents make you strain to decipher most of the dialogue, and the slipshod editing leaves edges misshapen.
While the story otherwise unravels smoothly, one of the best sequences has Billy seamlessly crossing over from a shuffling stride to a pulsating jig straight down the middle of the road; as he claims eventually, "when I dance, I feel like electricity". With a score that ranges from soul to disco, Billy is not the only one with dancing feet!This article was first published on 25 Jun 2001.