Friday, 26 July 2013

Beautiful Thing (1996) - ★★★½

Director: Hettie Macdonald
Writers: Jonathan Harvey
Stars: Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Linda Henry, Ben Daniels, Tameka Empson

If the opening sequence of Beautiful Thing told me anything, it was that I was in for a very amateur, frustrating, far from great movie. I was right in some ways, but it was surprisingly entertaining and beautiful. It's a simple film, but very effective. The greatest thing about it was the stunning performance by Linda Henry, who is renowned for her role as Shirley in Eastenders. It doesn't deliver any important messages, but it shows us the confusion and difficulty of being a gay teen in 1990s England. Yes, I really liked Beautiful Thing. 

Set in the cramped housing estates of London, young Jamie (Glen Berry) skips school to escape from being abused about his sexuality. His mother, Sandra (Linda Henry), tries her best to make up for being a far from perfect mother, but she finds it very hard to talk to Jamie, who still has a lot of resentment towards her. His neighbor, Ste (Scott Neal) lives in a world of abuse by his father and older brother, so he sleeps over one night. Jamie and Ste discover new feelings when sharing a bed, but society has left them scared of being themselves.

I think it's so cool that Shirley from Eastenders plays the mother. Linda Henry is such a wonderful actress, and my goodness did she give a fantastic performance. Her character uses men to do her bidding, yet she has a really likeable charm to her. She may have been a bad mother to him growing up, but Jamie's the one who instigates all of the arguments in the movie. He's a real twat if I'm being honest. It doesn't really tell us why he resents her, we can only guess that she wasn't always there for him. Well, the only side we really see is his bad side and her incapability to handle him. Henry really raises the movie from 'meh' to really good! Her performance will always stay in my mind, and is certainly deserving of an Oscar nomination for Supporting Actress.

The two lead actors are a bit frigid, and not just because their characters have reserved personalities. They're just not natural when they deliver their lines, and that really detracts from the story. Whereas the mother comes across as the most human of them all, and she happens to have a more interesting story. I wanted to know what was to happen with her, rather than her son. With that being said, the story as a whole was interesting enough to keep me watching with a smile on my face.

After the initial scene of intimacy between Jamie and Ste, the rest is pretty run-of-the-mill stuff. It's quite boring if I'm being honest. You can pretty much anticipate what the rest of the film is like, because the excitement is gone and all you have to look forward to is the problems. It's not much fun when the audience is two steps ahead of the characters in the movie, just waiting for them to catch up. BUT, the movie was great when Jamie finally admitted to his mother that he was gay. That whole sequence was just natural. Beautiful would be the only word to describe it. I don't really know why they called the film Beautiful Thing, but I'd say that's what the mother would describe her son as.

I loved the soundtrack! The Mama Cass music was freaking awesome. It definitely makes this movie standout in my mind. The score was quite beautiful too, and really cheesy during the scenes when Jamie and Ste are in bed. I also liked the way they highlighted how the housing estate community is really cramped, where no one has privacy. You can literally hear people in the next apartment in bed... it showed me that it's pretty difficult to be yourself when you're practically living with an ignorant community.

I absolutely adored the ending to Beautiful Thing. It really spoke to me, saying "Like it or not, we're here and we're happy!" At first I was like "Why draw attention to yourself?" Then I realized that it's not Jamie and Ste's problem if people don't like them dancing together in public. If people don't like it, well they should just put up with it. It's a positive message, throwing fear out the window and giving us a wonderful ending to a coming of age story. I'll always remember Beautiful Thing for Linda Henry's performance, and of course the soundtrack. Mama Cass would be proud! 

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