Billy Elliott (2000)

Genre: Drama | Age: 17+
billy elliot film review by arthur taussig


Ages 4 & Under -- No
Ages 5 to 7 -- No
Ages 8 to 9 -- No
Ages 10 to 12 -- No
Ages 13 to 15 -- With Guidance
Ages 15 to 17 -- With Guidance

Billy Elliott (2000)

DRAMA: (2000, R.) Eleven-year-old Billy lives in a working class town of Durham in Northeastern England where his miner father Jackie and brother Tony are out on strike. Helping him to “learn to be a man,” Jackie buys boxing lessons for him – a hardship since there is no income. Billy has no aptitude for boxing, but discovers almost by mistake, that he does have an aptitude for ballet. Mrs. Wilkinson, the local ballet teacher, encourages him. Jackie and Tony discover Billy’s secret lessons and forbid him to attend fearing that all dancers are homosexuals. Mrs. Wilkinson feels Billy’s talent is sufficient to audition for the Royal Ballet School and tutors him both without fee and secretly. On the day of the audition, Tony is arrested and Billy misses the audition. Both Jackie and Tony ridicule him brutally for his interest. Months later when almost by accident Jackie sees him dance and realizes that ballet would be a way out of a dead-end working-class life, he pawns his dead wife’s jewelry to raise money for the audition. Billy is accepted and we see him, a decade later, dancing the lead in Swan Lake.

VIOLENCE/SCARINESS: Billy’s father hits Tony in the face with a bloody mouth as a result. The strikers threaten, throw stones and eggs at the scabs. The police chase and beat the strikers; Tony is beaten under a sheet and we see spots of blood on it. Billy gets knocked down while practicing boxing. There are several shouting matches between various family members that border on violence. Taunted, Jackie hits Billy.


MORALS, ISSUES & VALUES: Almost all the characters are complex and believable, each struggling with both internal demons and external hurdles. While there is violence in the film, the problems, personal and political, are solved without violence. The children have become accustomed to an atmosphere of police threat and violence. The miners are on strike for better wages and benefits. Bravely, once Jackie, a life-long union supporter, realizes that the only way out of their dead-end working-class life is for Billy to have ballet lessons, he crosses the picket lines and endures the taunts and abuse of his friends. Eventually, and painfully, he pawns his wife’s jewelry to use the money for Billy’s audition. Billy learns to express his frustration and anger through dance (rather than through boxing). Billy and the family care for their elderly, occasionally senile grandmother. Jackie is driven by a deep love for his family though he may not always show it or do the right thing – he’s often intolerant, neglectful and abusive. He wants his son to have the chance he never had. The narrowness of their working class lives is demonstrated by Jackie admitting that he’d never been out of Durham and that Billy, who’d lived there all his life, had never seen the famous Durham Cathedral. Much of the discord is couched in terms of class conflict. According to the film: Goals can be accomplished through hard work and determination. Language: Heavy profanity and vulgarity throughout by adults and children. Homosexual slurs and insults.

SEXUALITY & GENDER ISSUES: Single parent family. Billy is told that ballet is not masculine and people suspect him of homosexuality. One of Billy’s young friends Michael cross-dresses saying his father does the same when he thinks he’s alone. Billy helps him establish his sexual identity with the gift of a tutu. Later, as an adult, we see him with a male companion. In this way the film distinguishes clearly between homosexuals and dancers. Interracial friendship. One of Billy’s young friends Debbie offers to show him her “bottom.” One man running from the police, bares his buttocks at them. Some sexual talk and discussion of adultery by children.

SUBSTANCES: Considerable smoking and drinking of beer and hard liquor. Mrs. Wilkinson chain-smokes. One of Billy’s friends steals a bottle of hard liquor and gives it to him; they taste it.

COMMENTS: A wonderful film study of family dynamics, full of hope and inspiration, healed relations, and realized dreams. Unfortunately, it is spoiled for families and children by the constant foul language, even in the mouths of pre-teens. The heavy British accent will be difficult for most kids.

STARRING: Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Julie Walters, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Stuart Wells, Nicola Blackwell.

ALTERNATES: A better ballet film for children is “The Red Shoes.” “October Sky” is another film of a young man following his dreams opposed by his family.


Nudity -- 0
Sexuality -- 3
Physical Violence -- 3
Emotional Stress -- 4
Blood or Gore -- 2
Language/Profanity -- 5
Immorality -- 2
Parental Guidance -- 3
Watchability for Adults -- 4
Overall (For Kids of the Appropriate Age) -- 2
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Copyright Arthur Taussig 2024