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Beautiful Thing

An urban fairytale. 

Year: 1996 
Running Time:
Aspect Ratio: Unknown 
Certificate: BBFC 15 Cert – Not suitable for under 15s 
Subtitles: The level of subtitling in this film is unknown to WSC 
Directed by Unknown 
Starring: Unknown  
An image from Beautiful Thing

Director: Hettie MacDonald

Starring: Linda Henry, Meera Syal, Glen Berry, Martin Walsh, Scott Neal

From director Hettie MacDonald, in association with Pride Week, comes a favourite for gay and straight alike. Set on a south-east London council estate one hot summer, Jamie is a smart but pretty unpopular teenager who skives school to avoid playing football. His next door neighbour Ste is sporty but regularly beaten by his father and brother. When Sandra (Jamie’s mum) offers Ste refuge from the violence in top-tailing with Jamie, there grows an attraction between them, from lingering glances to ultimate displays of love. This coming of age tale not only examines the boys’ exploration of sexuality and the contrast between them – Jamie comfortable, not giving a damn; Ste fighting demons and shame, but also the attitudes of those closest to them. Set against this is Sandra’s quest to break out of the estate and run her own pub, and relationship with hippy boyfriend. Topping it off is Leah the brazen next door neighbour who has been expelled from school and spends her time listening to Mama Cass and tripping on drugs.

This is a top quality film that has well and truly stood the test of time. The two leads are superb and completely engrossing, especially Scott Neal whose struggle to admit the truth is heartbreaking, especially one crushing scene when he is too ashamed to declare his love and denies his feelings to Jamie. Tameka Empson as Leah is a scene-stealer, giving more depth to a film not just focussing on sexuality issues but the general struggle teenagers face as they awkwardly stumble through life. There is also a degree of class commentary as Sandra finds it difficult to be with middle-class Tony but is desperate to escape her social environment. A particular gem though is the music legend that is Mama Cass Elliot making up the film’s soundtrack, which just completes the picture perfectly.

In all this is an awesome film that is at once funny and touching. So much more than just a coming-out tale, it is something that can be appreciated by all, for the tender memories of how hard love for a teenager is.

Jean Rostron

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Screenings of this film:

2006/2007 Autumn Term (35mm)