'Billy Elliot' is one of those films that, since its release in 2000, has been seen by everyone - whether it be your mum's favourite movie, you studied it in school, or you caught it on TV. Billy has been in everyone's life for the last 20 years, and with good reason. It's the story of a boy going against the norm to peruse his true passion, something that's inspiring to all ages.
One of the genius things that 'Billy Elliot' does is the way it speaks to every generation. We have the older generation with Billy's grandmother who, after losing a lot over the years and now experiencing the miners' strike, looks to Billy and the other kids for hope and faith that things will work out. We then step down to Billy's father who is contrasted with Sandra, Billy's dance teacher, the middle-class representatives whose government has let them down, even though both deal with the strike differently. His dad is fighting back on the front line, while Sandra is the one who's left to deal with the mess back home. As viewers, we see all of this through Billy, who is 11, dealing not only with the death of his mother but the world he knew crumbling around him. Further confusion is only added when he takes interest in ballet - something considered feminine compared to boxing - and the shame he feels for doing so.
What really connected with me - and I'm sure for many young boys - is that it's okay not liking traditionally masculine things ('High School Musical' also impacted a young Chris this way). Outside of Disney's subtext in their princess films, 'Billy Elliot' is a lot of kids' first "it's okay to be different" narrative, and that's part of the reason Billy's story still impacts audiences all around the world today. It opened up many adults' minds too; even if their child doesn't take interest in what they want them to, that's okay and they will find their passion and succeed in their own unique way.
In 2005, back when musicals based on a movie was still a rare thing, 'Billy Elliot: The Musical' debuted on the West End. Elton John penned the music and, to this day (well, not currently with the pandemic), Billy's story still tours the world and continues to inspire. The musical won 10 Tony awards, with all three original Billys taking home Best Leading Actor in a Musical - and with good reason. A young Tom Holland was one of the replacements for Billy and Michael in the West End (I didn't want to get in trouble for not bringing him up). Something that the musical beefs up is the miners' strike; while a lot of the show's songs juxtapose the two worlds beautifully, 'Solidarity' is the show's best number. The musical's success further illustrates how relevant this story is.
'Billy Elliot' is a lot of kids' first "it's okay to be different" narrative, and that's part of the reason Billy's story still impacts audiences all around the world today.
'Billy Elliot' was the first time we were introduced to the incredibly talented Jamie Bell, who captured the hearts of millions (also, I love that he was in 'Rocketman', a nice full-circle moment). With a lesser child actor in the role, any authenticity would have been lost. Bell is so realistic in the role, and that's another reason the story is so easy to gravitate towards. Also, here we have Stephen Daldry making his directorial debut, to much success. The always fantastic Julie Walters plays Sandra, the dance teacher, and was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
Even 20 years later, 'Billy Elliot' connects with audiences of all ages and backgrounds. Seeing a "typical" young boy grow interest in something stereotypically dissuaded from is something that resonates with everyone who has ever dreamed.