It is important for individuals to have support from others, preferably family members, in order to navigate new paths and overcome obstacles. This is a time when one learns more about themselves and the world around them. This change/transition is illustrated in Stephen Daldry’s movie Billy Elliot (1999) and Michelle Lehman’s short film Marry Me (1999). Both texts illustrate the similarities between the characters’ experiences in relocating to a new place and how they manage it through determination and hardwork.
Billy Elliot, a moving and bittersweet film, has touching scenes and memorable moments. This film portrays the struggles and hardships that people go through when they move into new and unfamiliar environments. Daldry portrays the story of how the protagonist dances to escape hardship and save his family. As a teenager, Billy rebels against gender stereotypes and pursues his passion for dancing. This film shows the story of Billy’s transformation in a series involving dialogue and visuals. The family doesn’t like Billy going into the world dance. They are held back by the traditional belief that girls do ballet, but boys box. Daldry’s unique combination of form and structure shows the changes happening to Billy and to his neighbors. Through the story of a boy who dreams big, the main themes of the film are highlighted. The strong bond between dance and a boy is what drives him to grow up and explore new worlds. Billy’s success is dependent on his determination.
The film opens with Billy, who is in complete happiness jumping around on his bed. We see him in his room jumping on his bed and then running up the steep hill to find a new world. He is able to climb the hill metaphorically and enter a new world through his determination. He overcomes all odds and enters a world that is not socially acceptable to males. Billy is seen dancing in his bedroom while T.Rex and Cosmic Dancer make non-diegetic noises. These lyrics hint at Billy’s ambitions, but his family is preventing him from realizing his dream to become a dancer. Marry Me centers around the two worlds Chloe, Jason and Chloe. Chloe wants Jason to marry her, but Jason doesn’t care about her. Jason is more comfortable socializing with his older brother, a seasoned biker. Jason’s age is a barrier to his ability to ride in the new world. Jason’s transition is difficult but he perseveres and succeeds in his new endeavor. Billy Elliot opens the film with a scene similar to the opening scene. Jason is seen getting on and off a sandcastle, destroying it each time he jumps. This is similar action to Billy jumping to the background non-diegetic music. It is symbolic that he is entering a new way. Jason builds a bicycle ramp as the short movie progresses. This bike ramp serves as a symbol for the hard work ahead. The bike ramp is clearly paralleled to the steep hill on Billy’s street. Despite having difficulty articulating his thoughts, Billy realizes that he has a big dream and is determined to dance. Both characters have to continue dancing and biking in order for them to succeed.
The ballet lesson Billy takes shows his first contact with ballet, and his first step towards individualism. A scene featuring a ballet lesson illustrates Billy’s experience with the world of boxing. He is not interested in boxing in this medium shot, but he dances to the calm ballet music when it starts playing in the boxing rings. Billy is placed behind the female dancers in the ballet class. This reduces Billy’s size and highlights his insecurities. A frame is used to show Billy’s ballet dominance. This image demonstrates his newfound strength. With Mrs Wilkinson, his dance teacher, Billy keeps him going despite all obstacles. She is confident that he can overcome any obstacles and will continue to support him when he fails.
Marry Me opens by highlighting the differences between Chloe’s world and Jason’s. The costume is an important technique that was integrated into the short film. It uses gender stereotyped colours and the costumes are very elaborate. Jason is seen wearing a combination of blue clothes and a t shirt with the text BMX. This gives the impression that Jason is solely focused on riding his bike and doesn’t care about Chloe’s dreams. In the same scene, Chloe can be seen sitting on her pink pink pink girly pink pink dress across the road.
bike. Chloe begins to take an interest in Jason’s hobbies as she learns to ride bikes. Jason hopes to eventually join her world. There is a connection between the worlds of Billy Elliot, and Marry Me. As Billy leaves boxing for ballet, Chloe integrates bike riding into her daily life to follow Jason’s lead. Both characters are willing to step outside their comfort zones and accept the challenge, knowing there is a reward. For Billy it’s a chance at dancing with Jason.
The film’s final scene is the most important. This is because it marks the end of Billy’s journey. In the previous frame shots, Billy was aligned with camera. However as Billy prepares for entering the stage, a low angle is taken. This shot is used to demonstrate that Billy has achieved dominance in his dance world. The lighting intensifies as Billy enters the stage, and he is placed under multiple spotlights. This lighting symbolizes that he is now a star in ballet. When Billy is asked his reasons for dancing, he answers that he can forget everything. It’s like he feels a physical change. Flyin’ like an angel. Like electricity”. He felt free and happy only after he started dancing. He has changed as he grows up.
Lehman’s brief film is about to end. Chloe, in the dialogue, says “I do”, to let the audience know that Chloe has won Jason and they are now entering the world together. As the frame ends, Jason and Chloe stand side-by side. Chloe is smiling big and happy about the outcome. It was hard work, but it was worth it to be with Jason. Jason was not able to ride with the older boys because he was too old.
Billy was able get past the hurdles that stood in the way of his new career as a ballet dancer because of his belief and determination. Daldry’s film shows how others help them overcome barriers and gives them a wider perspective on the world. Both Billy Elliot (and Marry Me) challenge society’s expectations. They show people who take on new challenges and persevere despite the odds.