A boy in the discovery of his passion

Directed by Stephen Daldry - 2000 - UK, France - 110 min

Billy Elliot

2023 December 06 | by Arduino Mancini Asking questions - Coaching - Diversity

The film is set in the United Kingdom during the 1984 miners’ strikes prompted by Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s closure of the mines.

Billy is an 11-year-old boy who lives with his father Gary, brother Tony, and grandmother; his brother and father are both miners on the strike front lines as they see their futures threatened by the mine closures. Not helpful to the family’s serenity is the absence of their mother, who passed away only a year before, and her ability to balance the tensions due to an economic situation close to collapse.

Billy attends a boxing gym at just the wishes of his father, who invests the little money he has in a sport that can offer his son a chance at redemption. Still, Billy realizes at an early stage that he has no interest in boxing, and one day he stumbles into a ballet class held in the same gym.

Thanks also to Mrs. Wilkinson, the dance teacher, he discovers his passion for dance and his life path.

The film goes on with a compelling interweaving of Gary and Tony’s struggles with strikes, the gradual discovery of dance, and the theme of homosexuality, with which dance is associated in the community in which the boy lives.

I go no further with the plot. I tell you a few things that may interest you:

  • The film is inspired by the story of British ballet dancer Philip Mosley, and Melvin Burgess’s book of the same title grew out of its screenplay;
  • The last scene refers to a performance of Swan Lake devised by controversial choreographer Matthew Bourne (in London, 1995, the premiere), who replaced the entire female corps de ballet with dancers for the first time, twisting the original story and turning it into an opportunity to bring gay love to the stage;
  • Total Film magazine ranked the film 39th among the best British films ever;
  • The story also spawned a musical, directed by Stephen Daldry and with music by Elton John, which was a relevant worldwide success.

Before continuing with some further reflections look at the trailer.



How to watch the film

There are several foods for thought and educational employments of the film.

It is interesting to note the dynamics that might be generated in a family when primary needs are endangered and “future” seems to be a meaningless word; conflict and fear become dominant, and worry ends up absorbing the resources that would be needed to get out of the situation creating sufferance.

The film is also a splendid example of the journey of a boy who discovers his passion and does his best to convince his family to go along with it, facing difficulties and prejudices with determination; also interesting is the role of the dance teacher, crucial throughout the story, who at some point in the story vanishes without question and without seeing recognition of her contribution.

The interview scene following the audition shows a case of the employment of questions in assessing personal motivation and detecting self-view: not to be missed.

In the background is the theme of same-gender attraction, which comes into every phase of the film: from prejudice toward dance to Billy’s gay friend, to the final scene of the Swan Lake performance I told you about.

In short, it is a film that urges us to indulge our passion and pursue our dreams, leaving prejudice behind.

Hardly you have not seen the film already. And if so…



Jamie Bell, Gary Lewis, Julie Walters, Jamie Draven, Jean Heywood, Janine Birkett, Nicola Blackwell, Mike Elliot

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