›› Beautiful Thing ‹‹

a film by Hettie MacDonald.

1995 | 87 mins | UK.

the quintessential feel-good coming out film.

Dave says:

Cue the life of Ste (Scott Neal); a popular guy at school who finds himself on the receiving end of regular beatings from his drunken father and bullying older brother. Until that is, one such beating goes a stage too far, resulting with him seeking sanctuary with boy-next-door Jamie (Glen Berry); along the way sharing the same bed 'top-to-toe' fashion.

Only Jamie is not like Ste. Bright but introverted, he's also on the verge of coming out to himself. Not that his life is dominated by his sexuality. More by the tough-love approach of his mother Sandra (Linda Henry); a pub manageress who dreams of escaping her working class existence, only to find relief instead in the arms of boyfriend Tony (Ben Daniels); a laid-back '90s man who prefers to live the '60s lifestyle. Not that their neighbour Leah (Tameka Empson) minds; an avid Mama Cass fan and a girl who knows that Ste and Jamie's friendship is starting to develop into something far more meaningful; something akin to a beautiful thing.

Adapted by Jonathan Harvey from his own successful stage play and set within the turbulent atmosphere of a southeast London housing project, this work aimed to show that you can be working class and to thy ownself, equally be true. Only the reality of life and in particular the ugly face of homophobia is not present here, given the now classic 'dance with me' close-of-play would almost certainly be met with a different reaction, to that seen here. Then again, this is but an urban fairytale, being to modern cinema what Maurice is to period drama; namely escapism in the final reel. And there's nothing wrong with that. Indeed in a world still filled with prejudice and homophobia, this remains a most desirable quality.

For this is the story of two students who in coming out to themselves, embark on the first tentative steps of a burgeoning relationship. To that end, the Berry / Neal pairing is a joy to behold, as too are the performances by Ben Daniels and Tameka Empson who offer fine support throughout. Yet it's Linda Henry who steals the show, thanks to her compelling portrayal of a single mother who having struggled to bring up her son all her life, is only too aware that further struggles lie ahead.

That many of the cast went on to become household names in the UK is perhaps of no surprise, given this is one of the finest coming out films of the '90s. Yet it's more than that. Fresh, upbeat and set to a great Mama Cass soundtrack, this is in effect THE quintessential feel-good coming out film, perhaps, of all time and one that and like the play itself, continues to provide a source of support and inspiration to those today who are coming to terms with their homosexuality. It remains - a pure delight.

›› available as part of the SPIRIT ENTERTAINMENT catalogue: 6th April, 2020 / UK.
›› revised: Saturday, 10th October, 2020.

Gay Visibility - overt | Nudity - bare-arsed cheek | Overall - file under ... 4 stars

›› copyright © 2020 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com ‹‹
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