a film by Hettie MacDonald
1995 | 87 mins | UK
›› Beautiful Thing
the quintessential feelgood coming out film
Beautiful Thing by Hettie MacDonald Cue the life of Ste; a popular guy at school who finds himself on the receiving end of regular beatings from a 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 and along the way, sharing the same bed top-to-toe style.

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 such. More by the tough-love approach of his mother Sandra; a pub manageress who dreams of escape from her working class existence, only to find relief in the arms of her boyfriend Tony, a laid-back '90s man who prefers to live the '60s lifestyle. Not that their neighbour Leah 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 still have your sexuality accepted. Only such is not quite the cinematic case, given the 'dance with me' finale would almost certainly be met with a different reaction, to that presented here. Then again, this is but an urban fairytale, being to modern gay cinema what Maurice is to period drama; namely escapism set in the final reel. And there is nothing wrong with that. Indeed in a world still filled with prejudice and homophobia, this remains a most desirable quality.

Beautiful Thing by Hettie MacDonald For this is the story of two students who in coming out to themselves, embark on the first tentative steps of a homosexual relationship. To that end, Glen Berry as Jamie and Scott Neal as Ste are a joy to behold, delivering spot-on performances, whilst Ben Daniels as cool dude Tony and Tameka Empson as Leah offer fine support. Yet it is Linda Henry who steals the show, thanks to her compelling performance of a single mother who having struggled to bring up her son all her life, is only too aware that further struggles lie ahead.

Yes it is sweet and ever so tender. But it is also fresh, upbeat and set to a great Mama Cass soundtrack, being in effect THE quintessential feelgood coming out film. Need more be said? Only that Linda Henry went on to considerable small screen acclaim, having secured leading roles in such primetime shows as BAD GIRLS and EASTENDERS, whilst Scott Neal went on to play gay again in the form of 'repressed homosexual inclinations' in the hit ITV police series THE BILL, of which the February 2003 season was to see Glen Berry make a guest appearance.

In short, this is one of the finest coming out films of the '90s. Yet it is more than that, given both the play and the film continue to provide a source of inspiration to those today, who are coming to terms with their homosexuality. It remains, a pure delight.

Gay Visibility - overt. 
Nudity - bare-arsed cheek. 
Overall - file under ... 3+ stars. 

›› Available to buy from Amazon.com.

›› Available to buy from Amazon.co.uk.
available on DVD as part of the VCI Entertainment catalogue
starring: Linda Henry, Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Ben Daniels, Tameka Empson, Garry Cooper, Daniel Bowers, Jeillo Edwards,
Marlene Sidaway, Stophie Stanton, Anna Karen, Meera Syal, Martin Walsh, Steven Martin
and Dave Lynn as the Drag Artiste
cameo appearance by Jonathan Harvey as the Wheelchair Queen
Copyright 2008 David Hall - www.gaycelluloid.com.
archive reference #024
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