Director: Hettie Macdonald
Cast: Glen Barry, Linda Henry, Scott Neal, Meera Syal, Tameka Empson.
I honestly don’t know where to start with this film. The tale of two high school teenage boys discovered who they are has a very special place in my heart. Writer Jonathan Harvey, known for BBC TV series Gimme, Gimme, Gimme originally wrote Beautiful Thing as a play. He then adapted the play into a screenplay, and thank the good Lord he did.
Beautiful Thing focuses on Jamie Gangel (Glen Barry) as he begins to discover his sexuality thanks to his neighbour Ste Pearce (Scott Neal). From the opening sequence it is obvious Jamie has eyes for Ste, but it isn’t until Ste has to spend the night in Jamie’s room, thanks to his abusive father, that Jamie is able to face his feelings and take that ever so important next step. Whilst Jamie is happy, Ste is confused and when another neighbour voices her suspicions Ste runs back into his closet. Just as they seem to be back on track Jamie’s Mom finds out.
The reason Beautiful Thing has such an effect on my is most likely due to timing. I watched this film as I was myself trying to come to terms with my own sexuality. Watching this film helped me tremendously to face up to who and what I was. By utilising those first teenage relationships as a catalyst for the ‘coming-out-journey’ the film has a definite sense of realism because for many of us it was those first fluttering’s of true love that inspired us to own up to our own sexuality. Love is a powerful tool and that shines through in Beautiful Thing.
The relationship between Jamie and Ste is only a small part of what provides the hope and strength within this film. The love and bond between Jamie and his Mom is terrific. Whilst she is, on the outside, a hard-nosed and gobby mare, underneath it is a true tenderness and loyalty to her son that is demonstrated undoubtingly in the final scene of the film.
It is this scene that still brings tears to my eyes to this day. The sheer strength of character for all of those involved blows me away, and it is this scene alone that gave me hope in the darkest days during my own journey. The days when it felt like I was the only person in the world like me, the days where I was too scared to leave my own house for fear of people’s reactions to me, this scene gave me the gumption to shrug it off and hold my head high.
I could go on and on about this films profound effect on me as a teenager, but in a nutshell it not only summed up my own journey, but also provided me with the inspiration I needed to take the first steps on that journey. Jamie and Ste overcome all adversity to be together, and unlike a lot of stories they are not completely vilified by their families. They still have support and love surrounding them, and that is the important message to take from Beautiful Thing. If you have the strength to be yourself, you will find those that truly love and support you will come in closer.
If you have not yet seen this wonderful British film, you need to. If not for its profound message, for its unprecedented quote-ability.