A frustratingly not-terrible action thriller.
"Billy Elliot" is the flip side of "Girlfight." While the recent American film is about a girl who wants to be a boxer and is opposed by her macho father but supported by her brother, the new British film is about a boy who wants to be a ballet dancer but is opposed by his macho father and brother. Both films feature supportive adults who encourage the dreams, both oppose rigid gender definitions, both end in a big fight/dance. "Girlfight" is tougher, "Billy Elliot" sweeter. I suppose that's appropriate.
The movie takes place in a British coal mining town, where Billy (Jamie Bell) trudges off to boxing lessons for which he is ill-equipped. Life at home is tense because his father (Gary Lewis) and brother Tony (Jamie Draven) are striking miners. One day, at the other end of the village hall, he sees ballet lessons being taught by a chain-smoking disciplinarian (Julie Walters), and his eyes grow large. Soon he is shyly joining her class, the only boy in a crowd of tutus.
Billy's father equates male ballet dancers with homosexuality, but Billy doesn't seem to be gay, a fact he discovers to his sudden embarrassment during a pillow fight with his friend Debbie (Nicola Blackwell). Billy's best friend Michael (Stuart Wells) is gay, however--a cross-dresser who reaches the high point of his young life by putting on one of the tutus. Michael is attracted to Billy, who doesn't reciprocate, but seems unusually sophisticated about the implications for a boy his age.
The movie is sort of awkwardly cobbled together, and there are big shifts in character without much explanation. Billy's dad, a supporter of the strike, not only begins to understand his son's dream, but actually becomes a strikebreaker to get money for Billy to attend an important audition. I can believe a coal miner supporting his son's dancing dreams, but anyone who believes he would become a scab to raise the money doesn't know much about union miners.