Gay love, homophobia and class

Issue 

Gay love, homophobia and class

Beautiful Thing
Written by Jonathon Harvey
Directed by
Hettie McDonald
Reviewed by Kath Gelber

I felt compelled to write more about the film Beautiful Thing after reading Castellani's review (GLW #250), not because the review is wrong — the film is uplifting, real and witty — but because it didn't do the story justice. Beautiful Thing is about more than "different relationships"; it's about gay love, homophobia and class. It challenges assumptions and stereotypes without riding roughshod over sentiments, or being overly sentimental.

The script is based on Jonathon Harvey's slightly autobiographical play of the same name. The film is the director's debut feature.

The central relationship developed in the film is that between two working-class young men, Jamie and Ste. Jamie lives with his mum, Sandra — a battler who has worked her way up from barmaid to manager of a pub. Her character is rough, perhaps a little cliched, but gutsy and a survivor. Although she has difficulty expressing her feelings (in a tender moment with Jamie she tells him he's "all right"), above all she cares about the people in her life. This compassion frames her confrontation with her son's homosexuality, and shatters some of the myths about working-class families and homophobia.

Ste lives with a brutal father and his anally retentive, drug-pushing, vicious brother. Ste's occasional hateful outbursts stem from his pain and internalised self-hatred. Ste's discovery forces him to confront many demons, inner and from without.

The two men discover more than love together. Their search for something beautiful in the midst of day to day struggles against violence and homophobia rewards them with a new-found resilience and determination, encapsulated in tender moments of film-making. Essentially, despite their difficulties, Jamie and Ste find happiness in finding out who they are.

It's not often that a film manages to be entertaining, confronting, witty, romantic, challenging and good cinema at the same time. Beautiful Thing does. Go see it.