Monday, October 28, 2013

Film Review: Beautiful Thing (1996)


Premise: In a London suburb, young Jamie (bullied by his peers) and his neighbour/classmate Ste (beaten by his brother and father) start to develop feelings for each other.

Director: Hettie Macdonald

Written by: Jonathan Harvey

Technical: 90 minutes.

This is my second time watching Beautiful Thing (and it will not be my last). After the first viewing, I thought it was great, but not phenomenal. I was bothered by a few very minor things. Regardless, the film made a large impression on me. Over time, the film grew on me. After watching Beautiful Thing for the second time, I found not a single fault within it. (It doesn't matter if you can't understand some of what is said in the film, due to the accents. In fact, it makes the film more authentic, and better). Beautiful Thing is a small, quiet masterpiece.

The players in Beautiful Thing are not merely characters. They are familiar, and they are real, and they are family. We see all their different shades; rude, vulgar, dirty, desperate, scared, loving, selfless. They really do struggle; they are living life, and doing their best, and being pushed back three steps for every one they take forward. Some parts are hard to watch, because the emotion is just so genuine. (To be clear: I am not saying that this film has the realism of, say, an Italian neorealist film. This is a different type of realism.) Beautiful Thing does not show you what you want to see. It is not an easy film. The story is effortless to follow, but still requires the viewer to think and feel.

This is not a film about homosexuality (though Ste and Jamie's relationship is quite touching.)  In fact, this film has very little to do with homosexuality. It has everything to do with being human. This is a film about bigotry and ignorance, viewed through one particular lens, but having universal meaning.

Thankfully, this lens ain't rose coloured.

About: Based on the play of the same name (which was also written by the screenwriter, Jonathan Harvey.)

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