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"Watching him dance his emotions, from exultation to despair, one can sense just how completely Billy's vital energy goes into the art of dancing."
Raymond Teague is the author of Reel
Spirit: A Guide to Movies That
He is an award-winning
His book is available by clicking the "Buy the Book" link above.
"Reel Spirit" Movie Reviews
The human spirit wants to dance, to fly, to soar.
But frequently it gets trapped in our human stories - in our situations, dramas, environments, families, jobs, societies, and in the limitations of our own minds. It struggles, with varying degrees of success, to escape.
Billy Elliot is about a free-dancing spirit that won't be held back, a joyous spirit encased in the person of an 11-year-old boy (played by Jamie Bell).
When he's dancing, Billy's self disappears and his spirit soars. "I'm just there flying, like a bird, like electricity," Billy says.
Billy recognizes what connects him to his spirit and what enables him to feel its essence, and at a young age has the inner strength and resolution to charge ahead to realize his goal of becoming a ballet dancer.
He remains true to his mother's advice: "Always be yourself."
But Billy faces considerable odds to free his spirit. He's the younger son of an English coal miner, who has been recently widowed and is out of work during a union strike. Neither his father nor his brother, also a striking miner, understand Billy's desire to be a ballet dancer or his plans to audition for the Royal Ballet School. To them, ballet is for sissies, and initially they see Billy's dreams as impractical, costly, and out of the question.
To Billy, however, dancing is life itself. Watching him dance his emotions, from exultation to despair, one can sense just how completely Billy's vital energy goes into the art of dancing.
This is the type of inspiring, uplifting movie in which viewers are well aware from the outset that the title character must realize the coveted goal, but that's perfectly okay. The pleasure is in identifying with the dreamer and the dreams and in sharing the journey toward success. We see ourselves in a Billy Elliot and we instinctively understand the need to free our own spirit in whatever way calls to us. Such stories touch the soul, and we resonate with them as if experiencing a glimpse of a divine plan of exquisite beauty and satisfaction.
Part of the good feeling in Billy Elliot is the emotion we feel toward those who help Billy attain his goal -- and toward those whose own worlds are expanded through coming in contact with him.
Billy, for example, has a teacher who sees beyond a youth's first rough attempts at flight to the perfection that his determination and energy suggest. The teacher, Mrs. Wilkinson (Julie Walters) offers Billy valuable, no-nonsense advice about the necessity for proper preparation and concentration to achieve his goals.
She not only encourages Billy to be himself but also offers assistance in giving form to Billy's spirit. "It's how you move and how you express yourself that's important," she says.
In reaching for his own new horizons, Billy challenges his family to see beyond their narrow world and to respond to him with unconditional love and support.
Screenwriter Lee Hall and director Stephen Daldry are to be congratulated for this heartfelt movie that champions the spirit. However, it's a shame that a story with such potential to inspire young people - other Billy Elliots - must carry an R rating because of language.
Offensive language is not so crucial to establishing the setting and characters that it should be given a higher priority than making the film available to inspiration-starved children around Billy Elliot's age.