It is also a piece of magic realism, with political overtones. By setting their near fairy tale in the context of aclose-knit mining community, and more specifically against the backdrop of the 1984/5 miners' strike - a defining moment of modern British economic and social history - writer Lee Hall and director StephenDaldry are able to refer to gender and class issues, without turning their work into a political tract, and without losing focus on the central human drama.
The film is realised near flawlessly. Bellachieves a convincing blend of adolescent bewilderment and defiance; if his dancing is not quite as good as we might expect, the storyline explains this away by saying that at this early stage hisattitude and drive are more important than his technique. The dancing set pieces, clearly inspired more by Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly than by Nijinksky, are performed with gusto, mainly to pop songs byT-Rex.
Lewis and Draven put gritty realism and passion into their roles of a father and son committed to their community and to the miners' cause. They make us feel their despair as they realisethat this cause is lost; but also their endurance as they come to terms both with Billie's aspirations and their own uncertain futures - within a few years most UK coalmines would be closed. (Thecolliery in Easington, the real-life location of the film, closed in 1994.). The scenes of violence between strikers and police are presented uncompromisingly and authentically, but with the occasionaltouch of humour.
Julie Walters provides an outstanding performance as Mrs Wilkinson, the dancing teacher who recognises and fosters Billie's talent; and helps him resist his own and his family's...