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Billy Elliot is the story of an eleven-year-old boy who escapes the harshness of his existence by discovering his passion for Ballet. Inspired by A. J. Cronin's novel The Stars Look Down, this 2000 film spawned a highly successful west End musical, a collaboration between the film's original screenwriter Lee Hall and Elton John. Billy Elliot is both a gritty historical drama and a heart-warming feelgood movie.
The movie is set during the UK Miners Strike of 1984. Surrounded by the harsh realities of his family's poverty, Billy's only escape is the love of music he inherited from his late mother. His father pushes Billy into manly pursuits, forcing him to take up boxing at the local gym. At the same gym is a Ballet class that attracts Billy. He secretly switches from boxing to ballet.
Described by some as "a Coming Out Story without the gay", this film has spawned its own trope: The Billy Elliot Plot, where young boys in a coming-of-age story learn an important lesson — Be Yourself. Even if it does involve leotards.
- All Love Is Unrequited: Billy seems to be feeling an attraction to Debbie in the pillow fight scene, but he does not reciprocate her later interest in him. Billy also can't return Michael's love for him.
- Always Camp: Averted. Despite his love of dance Billy is not gay or even camp. His best friend Michael on the other hand...
- Ambiguously Gay: Then again, there are people who think the movie can be convincingly read both as a subtle tale of a Billy coming to terms with his sexuality. After all, he is clearly uncomfortable when Debbie tries to touch him, but he kisses Michael on the cheek before he leaves. The ending of the movie is perhaps deliberately left open to allow viewers to decide for themselves (there's possibly a bit of Fridge Brilliance in the fact that the ballet we see grown-up Billy in at the end is Matthew Bourne's gay interpretation of Swan Lake).
- Angry Dance: To the Jam's 'A Town Called Malice'.
- Be Yourself
- Big Damn Kiss: At one point Michael kisses Billy on the cheek; this is Michael's coming out to Billy and declaring his love for him, a love which Billy cannot return. Right before Billy leaves to go to ballet school, he says goodbye to Michael and kisses him on the cheek. Then "See you, then", and he runs off, leaving Michael looking after him.
- Black Sheep: Billy.
- Boxing Lesson: Kinda.
- Camp Gay: Billy's best friend Michael.
- Camp Straight: Billy, arguably. He's not camp at all but he's into ballet, in which a very disproportionately high number of gay men are involved.
- Distant Finale: See above.
- Dysfunctional Family: But they pull it together.
- Lamarck Was Right: Not in a mega superhero way, but still. Billy's paternal grandfather was apparently a really good boxer, which is why Billy's dad wants him to take it up. But Billy's maternal grandmother was also a fantastic ballet dancer when she was a young girl.
- Missing Mom: Billy Elliot suffers from dead mother syndrome.
- Mistaken for Gay: Billy probably isn't gay, but his love of ballet makes his dad fear he is.
- Oop North: It may as well be the name of Billy's hometown. But for some reason his father's Glaswegian. Which actually in a way makes it more believable.
- Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Billy and Michael, kind of. Billy is sensitive and into ballet, but the film takes pains to show him as quite conventionally masculine in some ways (punching that boy at the auditions, for example). Michael, on the other hand, is Camp Gay and a Wholesome Crossdresser.
- Train Station Goodbye: A Bus Station variant with family rather than lovers.
- Unconfessed Unemployment: Inverted. The Father can't tell his son he's going back to work as a scab.
- Vehicle Vanish: Debbie manages to pull one off.
- "Well Done, Son" Guy: Billy doesn't want his father to be disappointed in him, which is why he hides the fact he's doing Ballet.
- Wholesome Crossdresser: Michael.
The musical adaptation provides examples of:
- All Musicals Are Adaptations: Well this one sure is.
- Angry Dance
- Counterpoint Duet/Distant Duet: In "Solidarity", the ballet class scenes actually take place simultaneously with scenes from the strike, with girls in tutus dancing in between cops swinging billy cubs. It works well.
- Hail to the Thief: "Merry Christmas, Maggie Thatcher".
- The Musical
- Screen to Stage Adaptation: Which is odd because while it is a film about dance Billy Elliot is not a musical.
- Took a Level in Badass: Grandma! From delusional sweet old lady to delusional sweet HILARIOUS old lady. Plus she runs down a hall with a knife. Sure, it was to open a letter, but still.