Title: Beautiful Thing (1996)
Director: Hettie MacDonald Screenwriter: Jonathan Harvey (based on his play)
Genre: Coming of Age
Price: Varies, available on DVD
Summary: During one hot, long summer in the South London projects, neighbors Jamie and Ste discover that there can be more to life than what they’ve found so far.
This 1996 entry from the ever-inventive Channel Four Films, puts most (if not all) gay coming-of-age movies to shame. This charmer is the story of Jamie (Glenn Berry) and Steve (Scott Neal), two teens who are not exactly friends; not exactly enemies. Their bond is more their proximity than anything else. That and the fact that they both are beginning to feel that there has to be more to life than the projects of South London. Jamie is the more studious, the more in touch with his emerging sexuality, the one tormented with taunts of “poof” and “queer”. Steve, trapped in his flat with his physically abusive father and brother, is the more “straight” and dreams of sports infamy. The boys find themselves drawn together, dealing with the problems of their lives, and ultimately falling in love, falling in fear of love, and finally falling into a measure of comfortability with one another.
The eclectic cast of characters includes Jamie’s barmaid mother Sandra (the brilliant Linda Henry), Sandra’s oh-so-understanding boyfriend Tony, and teen neighbor Lia (Tameka Empson – a bravura performance in the “fag hag” role) who wants nothing more than to be Mama Cass. The result is a story not so much about two boys coming out, but about a whole community daring to come out of their respective closets and daring to dream. The film utilizes the music of Mama Cass and The Mamas and the Papas almost exclusively, resulting in a soundtrack that — for a change — actually serves the needs of the film. Though not the best made film from a technical standpoint, the characters are rich and believable, and if the last scene alone doesn’t give you a lump in your throat, well…then you are jaded, aren’t you.