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Beautiful Thing

July 11, 2017

The film was originally intended for television broadcast only, but it was so well-received that it was subsequently released in cinemas. In 1993, when Beautiful Thing was first performed at the Bush Theatre in West London, audiences were left shocked, gasping at an on-stage gay kiss between teenage boys.

 A lot of the actors appeared on Eastenders later.

The story is set and filmed on Thamesmead, a working class area of South East London dominated by post-war council estates

Jamie, a teenager who is infatuated with his classmate, Ste, has to deal with his single mother Sandra, who is pre-occupied with ambitious plans to run her own pub and with an ever-changing string of lovers, the latest of whom is Tony, a neo-hippie.

Sandra finds herself at odds with Leah, a sassy and rude neighbour who has been expelled from school, does several drugs, and constantly listens and sings along to her mother’s Cass Elliot records. While Jamie’s homosexuality remains concealed, his introvert nature and dislike of football are reason enough for his classmates to bully him at every opportunity.

Ste, who is living together with his drug-dealing brother and abusive, alcoholic father in the flat next door, is one night beaten by his brother so badly that Sandra takes pity and lets him sleep over. In the absence of a third bed, Ste has to make do with sleeping ‘top-to-toe’ with Jamie. On the second night they share a bed: after a massage and a minor conversation, the boys soon change sleeping arrangements and Jamie kisses Ste for the first time.

The next morning, Ste panics and leaves before Jamie awakens, avoiding him for days. Jamie works up the nerve to steal a Gay Times from a newsagent, apparently starting to accept his sexuality and affection for Ste. Jamie finally spots Ste at a nearby party and confronts him; they prepare to leave together. The party ends badly, with Sandra taking vengeance on Leah for gossiping, who then threatens to ‘spill the beans’ about Ste and Jamie and confesses to having covered up for Ste in front of his father and brother. Ste reacts poorly, angrily rejecting Jamie and running away.

Slowly, Ste accepts Jamie’s love and their relationship begins to develop as they visit a gay pub together. Sandra follows them and discovers their secret, and the film reaches its climax as a bad trip by Leah (on an unnamed drug) precipitates Sandra’s breakup with Tony; the news of Sandra’s new job comes out; and Sandra confronts Ste and Jamie. Sandra comes to accept her son’s relationship.

The film ends with the two boys slow-dancing in the courtyard of their council flats to the Cass Elliot song “Dream a Little Dream of Me”, while a guarding Sandra dances defiantly at their side with Leah as the local residents look on; some of them shocked, some of them strongly disapproving; and some of them enjoying the moment themselves.

The movie clearly states that it is the middle of the summer and supported by the fact that schools are still in attendance and the quote “It’s the middle of the summer, its a heat-wave.” However during the party scene, it is clearly dark outside but the clock on the wall as Jamie enters the house says 9:00. During British Summertime it would still very much be light at this time.

Jamie: You know who Claude Monet is?

Sandra: Jamie, don’t make me out to be thick.

Jamie: Who was he then?

Sandra: He painted the Sixteenth Chapel.

 

Jamie: Scared of being called “queer”?

Ste: Are you?

Jamie: Maybe… maybe not.

Ste: And are ya?

Jamie: Queer?

Ste: Gay.

Jamie: Very happy. I’m happy when I’m with you…

 

Sandra: What happened? School burned down, did it?

Jamie: Yeah.

Sandra: What was it this time? IRA bomb?

Jamie: Fundamentalist Muslim pyromaniacs.

Sandra: Oh, funny, that. Looked all right when I walked past it.

 

Leah: Don’t suppose you’ve got any jobs in your new pub?

Sandra: No. But if I ever do turn it into a brothel I’ll get back to you, ok?

 

Sandra: You’re pissed! From a bloody gay bar!

Jamie: How do you know it’s a gay bar?

Sandra: Cos it’s got a bloody great pink neon arse outside of it!

 

Sandra: It’s not natural, is it?

Jamie: What ain’t?

Sandra: A girl her age being into Mama Cass.

Leah: She’s got a really beautiful voice.

Sandra: And what’s wrong with Madonna?

Leah: She’s a slag.

Sandra: Hypocrite.

 

Ste: There ain’t nowhere else.

Sandra: There is, actually, Ste. There’s an island in the Mediterranean called Lesbian, and all its inhabitants are dykes. So you’ve got your eye wiped there.

 

Ste: Do you think I’m queer?

Jamie Gangel: It don’t matter what I think.

 

Ste: [reading magazine] You cannot transmit the HIV virus by frottage.

Ste: What’s frottage?

Jamie Gangel: It’s yogurt. It’s French.

 

Sandra: It’s for his bird.

Tony: Do you have to use words like that? It really disempowers you.

 

Sandra: Where are you going?

Jamie: Out with my mates.

Sandra: Jamie… you ain’t got any mates.

 

Ste: You always wear glasses when you read?

Jamie: Supposed to.

Ste: But you don’t at school.

Jamie: It’s hardly fetching, is it?

Ste: Nah, looks all right.

Jamie: Really?

Ste: I’m tellin’ ya.

Jamie: Cheers.

 

Miss Chauhan: Right, now, this is Mr. Bennett and he’s gonna be taking the boys for football. Mr. Bennett foolishly wants to be a teacher. [McBride and the other boys are talking quietly, but including the word “fucking” several times, making Miss Chauhan’s comments about Mr. Bennett barely audible. Jamie then looks across to McBride]

Ryan McBride: What you fucking looking at?

Miss Chauhan: Er, less fucking and more attention please. [She looks across to Gina, who is obviously pregnant] Something you might have said to your boyfriend, that, Gina.

 

Leah Russell: I wish I was the one that was going away. Nothing ever happens around here. I gets up in the morning, bake my face in half a ton of slap, tong my hair with yesterday’s lacquer, that’s it. It’s the same every bleeding day. There’s fuck-all to look forward to.

 

Sandra Gangel: Now you just remember I won a year’s supply of toilet freshener for making up that poem. That took brains and artistry, that did.

 

Leah: It’s your bird. She talks to me like I’ve got “cunt” written on me forehead.

Tony: You shouldn’t use words like “bird”.

 

Jamie: Where’d you meet my mum?

Tony: Planet Earth!

Jamie: Yeah, but where?

Tony: A place is just somewhere where shit happens.

Jamie: Yeah, but where?

Tony: Gateways.

 

Jamie: [hearing phone ring] That’ll be the phone.

Sandra: Well it wouldn’t be the bloody Hoover bag, would it?

 

Jamie: You’re not ugly.

Ste: They’ve made me ugly.

 

Sandra: [Talking about Ste after he rushes off, obviously upset] What’s his problem?

Jamie: He’s in love, that’s all.

 

Leah: Come on Slasher, let’s go.

Sandra: Slasher? What do you slash, crepe paper?

Leah: He’s incontinent.

 

Sandra: Jamie, who played the Baroness in the Sound of Music?

Sandra: All I want outta life is enough money to buy a decent pair o’shoes that don’t let in the rain.

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From → Film, Spirituality

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