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BEAUTIFUL THING

UK, 1996 (MIFF 1996, Contemporary World Cinema )

Director: Hettie Macdonald

Ken Loach meets Mike Leigh" is how Variety described the hilarious Cockney working-class comedy, Beautiful Thing. Hettie Macdonald's film centres around a story of gay love in an East London housing estate—from first nervous glances to ingenious use of peppermint foot lotion"

This ebullient and funny 'urban fairytale' discovers true romance and worldly wisdom where most films tell us not to expect much of anything good Jamie hates sports and is constantly bullied at school. His school-mate and neighbour Ste, on the other hand, is very good at ball games but is constantly bullied at home by his drunken Dad and drug-dealing brother. Leah is the world's most obsessive Mama Cass fan. Being popular does not interest her.

Keeping up their spirits with her patented combination of well-honed abuse and brisk tenderness is Jamie's daunting mother. Sandra, who manages a pub. It's Sandra who takes Ste under her wing when he's taken one beating too many from his brother. Jamie, who secretly thinks he might be gay, is asked to share his bed with his battered friend.

Jonathan Harvey's script from his own play blends comedy and poignance as the two boys establish the boundaries of their fondness for each other-and begin to discover what it might mean to be gay. There's no shortage of opinion available to them on the subject. The film's 'be yourself' spirit is as sharp and good-humoured as its repartee and it's straight-friendly too You'd have to be a hard-hearted homophobe not to leave Beautiful Thing with a smile on your face. • Bill Gosden. Wellington Film Festival

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