UK / 1996 / 90 min / English / Drama
Director: Hettie Macdonald
Cast: Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Linda Henry, Tameka Empson
The Skinny: A Working Class Saved By the Bell
Plato Score: D+
Based on the stage play by writer Jonathan Harvey, Beautiful Thing shows the budding relationship between two teen boys growing up in council housing in south east London.
The play and film were groundbreaking for its day in showing a tender, unapologetic gay relationship in a more working-class environment. Yet by today’s standards the movie has trouble holding its ground.
Jamie gets bullied by other jock boys while Ste has no trouble fitting in with the football crowd. The boys live next door to each other and their friendship ramps up when Ste, in order to escape his abusive father, is forced to spend the night in Jamie’s teeny-tiny bed. The boys begin a clandestine affair that becomes fraught when their galpal Leah threatens to let the gay cat out of the bag.
The most beautiful thing about Beautiful Thing is the acting, especially by the female performances of Leah (Tameka Empson) and Jamie’s mom, Sandra (Linda Henry)—both veterans of EastEnders we should add.
However the motif of chipper sixties music to contrast the blah life of the boys quickly becomes sappy. While the flick may have been a breath of fresh air for gays coming off the dour AIDS films of the 80s, sadly it just barely cuts the LGBT mustard.