In the middle of Thatcher-era England, a young boy named Billy (Jamie Bell) spends money for boxing classes on ballet lessons instead. His instructor (Julie Walters), originally out to make a cheap buck, recognizes that Billy has talent, and insists that the 11 year old attend ballet school despite the difficulties posed by his father and brother (Gary Lewis and Jamie Draven). As striking miners, they recognize his dreams are at odds with their workaday reality. Suspicions about Billy's sexuality further complicate matters.
The new British film Billy Elliot is uplifting in the way good feel-good films are meant to be. The characters, while common, have meat on their bones. They're not one-dimensional cardboard cutouts. The storyline, while predictable, includes plot departures and details that most tales of poor kid-plus-perseverance don't contain. The real discovery, however, is Jamie Bell. Billy Elliot marks his screen debut. Bell's dance scenes electrify with their kinetic charisma. Billy Elliot provides with steady, almost stealthy delight.