Beautiful Thing

Ladymol's Review

Aptly named. This is a beautiful movie set amidst the deeply unlovely tower blocks of London.

Jamie and Steve are fifteen and live next to each other in flats in the tower blocks. Jamie has no father; Steve no mother and an abusive father and brother. Beaten up one day by his brother, Steve stays the night with Jamie, and their friendship turns into something more. Considering the age of the two main actors, the acting in this film is quite absorbing! How many times are low-budget films let down by the inability of their actors to actually act? Not so Scott Neal and Glen Berry. Both eighteen when they made this film, they bring a level of tenderness and poignancy to their performances that turn this movie into something very special.

The sex between the boys is almost non-existent but that doesn’t matter at all. The passion is all there, and the film has one of the best, most sexy screen kisses I can recall.

It’s rare that someone can steal the scenes from the gay one for me, but the mother, Linda Henry, does. She’s integral to the coming out of both these boys: mother to one, surrogate mother to the other.

I swear that this movie has one of the best feel-good endings of any gay movie I’ve seen. And I’m sorry if that spoils it for you, but for once, just sit back and enjoy the angst because every moment is worthwhile.


Cerisaye's Review

A feelgood movie that’s unashamed to admit it’s a fairy tale modern romance. The gay theme is only part of an interconnecting character driven ensemble piece. Set on a London housing estate, the film tells the story of shy youngster, Jamie, who’s bullied at school, and his developing feelings for boy-next-door, Ste, a sporty type much more popular, whose father and older brother both beat him up. 

The sixties music soundtrack, rather attractive décor, and pleasant community feel of the setting wasn’t exactly what I expected when I sat down to watch the film.  I don’t know much about Thamesmead but it looks a lot better than my image of a typical London council estate.  The lift always works and neighbours look out for each other.

Jamie’s mother Sandra is a gutsy bar maid, who dreams of escaping her narrow existence.  Her pretty toyboy is a middle class dreamer who speaks PC psychobabble and is annoyingly prone to vague hippy dippy pronouncements. I thought HE was going to be the one to teach Jamie the facts of life.

Lingering glances lead to the night Jamie realises he is in love, when he shares his bed with friend Ste one night after Sandra takes him in following a punch-up with his drunken beast of a father.  Jamie has apparently come to terms with being gay, presumably the reason for his troubles at school, when he tries to avoid confrontation.  We get hints of homophobia but nothing nastier than name-calling and taunting is shown.  Ste takes longer to realise his urges.  There’s a touching moment when Jamie gives Ste a backrub and the lad is too embarrassed to turn over and reveal the evidence of his desire. 

Jamie and Ste embark upon a hesitant love affair.  It’s sweet and tender, but balanced with realistic touches like Jamie stealing a copy of Gay Times from a newsagent shop, so they know where to go to find others like themselves.  This turns out to be a caricature, cheery London gay bar.  The boys are subject to gentle teasing by a drag queen, so obvious their newfound sexual awareness.  It’s all quite painless and requires some suspension of disbelief.  They seem remarkably innocent for contemporary kids.  There’s an amusing discussion about ‘frottage’ which Jamie confidently tells Ste is a kind of yoghurt.

One powerful scene covers Jamie’s mother finding out her son is gay.  Sandra has protected her son all his life, and there’s a strong bond between them, but confronted with Jamie’s developing sexuality she’s helpless, afraid for him and sad that she’ll never have grandchildren as he’s an only child.  And there’s an amusing line in which she tells her son about the Mediterranean island of ‘Lesbian’ a paradise for gay people. 

Mouthy black girl, Leah, almost steals the show, with her crazy dream of emulating Mamma Cass.  She’s out of control, plays loud music in the middle of the night, and fights with all the neighbours, particularly Sandra.

All performances are excellent, and the film ends on a very uplifting note with Jamie and Ste dancing together in the courtyard while their neighbours look on benignly, no sign of the homophobic bullies from school.  It’s a bit OTT, and lets down the rest of a film which mostly convinces; however, it’s nice to see a couple of gay teens allowed to be happy and together, a message of hope that doesn’t seem too removed from reality.

Buy Beautiful Thing [1996] from Amazon