by Sam Juliano
There is a fresh spontaneity present throughout the gay-themed romance Beautiful Thing that leaves the viewer fully exhilarated. There is a certain sense of triumph when the two lovers are fully outed (one recalls many similarities to the Swedish lesbian drama Show Me Love - directed by Lukas Moodyson – that opened two years later) and have finally built up support and acceptance among those who were originally hostile to such a proposition. To be sure, the unforgettable final scene of the British film, when the two teenagers lovingly slow-dance in the courtyard of their council flats to Mama Cass Elliot’s “Dream a Little Dream of Me” as the one boy’s feisty mom defiantly cavorts alongside them, provokes as much shock as bliss among the on-lookers. But the fact that some have accepted what was once unconscionable in these working class, housing project environs provides the film with its own silver lining, while major changes lie on the horizon.
Beautiful Thing stands apart from other gay romances because it depicts the budding relationship as an outgrowth of the same yearnings that define heterosexual love. There are the usual hurdles to negotiate, and guilt, embarrassment and self-loathing are all experienced before true love conquers all. Hattie McDonald, directing an intelligent script written by Jonathan Harvey from his long-running play demonstrates remarkable emotional restraint in documenting how two teenage boys who reside next door to each other in a South East London housing project come face to face with their emerging homosexuality. In fact the film essentially plays out largely in three connecting apartments which house the characters who display their various difficulties in coping with their siblings, acceptance in school and dysfunctional self-identity. (more…)