Written by Jonathan Harvey based on his play
Directed by Hettie MacDonald
Starring Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Linda Henry, Tameka Empson, Ben Daniels
Released by: Columbia/Tristar Home Video.
My Advice: Catch it on cable.
Jamie (Berry) is the typical sensitive withdrawn teenager who’d rather run off from school than attend P.E. class. His mother, Sandra (Henry), loves him very much but she and Jaime have a very intense relationship and that intensity isn’t easy to live with at times. It also wasn’t help that Sandra’s taste in men tends to losers like Tony (Daniels), who is a walking advert about the dangers of long term use of marijuana. Ste (Neal) lives next door with his alcoholic father and drug dealing brother and is the family punching bag. Sandra, finding Ste after one of these beatings, offers him a place to stay. This freaks Jamie out since he has a major crush on Ste. After a while, Ste starts returning his affection. Now Jamie and Ste have boarded the rollercoaster of love for a ride that is both exhilarating and terrifying with added twists for being two boys in love. Will they and everyone around them realize that this is a Beautiful Thing?
[ad#longpost]What really struck me about this movie is it’s not Significant. Significant (mind the capital letter) or its television version, A Very Special Episode, feels it need to deliver a message right between your eyes and enlighten its audience while sacrificing entertainment. Instead of attaching heavy duty Significance, this film plays out a simple love story. The gay aspect isn’t ignored, but it doesn’t overwhelm either. The couple could be dealing with being different races, classes, or religions. You can also see them trying to handle the overwhelming prospect of being In Love and trying to come to grips with their own family baggage.
What really impressed me was Sandra’s reaction to finding out Jamie is gay and involved with Ste. A fundamental assumption she had made of her son changes. And like any parent, she doesn’t want her child to have a harder life than he needs to. The way they work through this is one of the best and most realistic coming out scenes I’ve seen.
While the core is solid, still the rest of the movie seems off. For example, the character Leah, a young black dropout with lots of attitude and a love of Mama Cass, doesn’t really have a purpose to serve in the narrative. I wonder what was left when the author adapted his play to screen or what the director cut out. This could have been addressed with some DVD extras, but they are none. No commentary from the cast or crew, no deleted scenes to fill in the gaps, and no information on how the play or film was received. A real shame. So I can only recommend seeing if you can catch Beautiful Thing on cable since the DVD doesn’t warrant the time and money for perusal.