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Beautiful Thing(Hettie Macdonald, UK, 90', 1996)

Beautiful Thing is a heartwarming story of two young men coming to grips with their sexuality and the effect it has on the people in their lives.

Beautiful Thing focuses on three neighbors, Jamie (Glen Berry), Ste (Scott Neal) and Leah (Tameka Empson) on Thamesmead Estate in south-east London. In the middle flat, Jamie lives with his pub manager mum, Sandra (Linda Henry). Jamie is going through a few problems at school, much to the chagrin of his gutsy mother who is too busy trying to hold down a relationship with a dippy younger man, Tony (Ben Daniels). Next door lives Ste, sporty and good looking, with his brother and alcoholic father. The atmosphere is tense at the best of times. On the other side live Leah and her mum. Leah has been kicked out of school and passes her time listening to old records. Leah has become obsessed with the music of the Mamas and the Papas and particularly with Mama Cass.

Life drifts along until one night Ste is beaten up by his brother and is taken into the safety of Sandra's flat. Sleeping embarrassed head-to-toe, Jamie realizes that he is in love with Ste. As the bullying continues, Ste spends more and more time with Jamie. With Jamie, Ste finds a tenderness he has so far missed out on in life. He finds himself drawn more and more to Jamie.

But it is not as straightforward as that. How can you be gay on this tough estate? As Ste and Jamie are sorting things out in their heads, Sandra discovers the truth. She knows she cannot kick Jamie out. Her love for him is too strong, and she decides to try and understand. It is clear now that things will forever be different for Jamie and his mother, but Ste can never tell his family the truth.

The film ends on an optimistic note with Jamie and Ste slow dancing in the sunshine, and Leah and Sandra, usually at each other's throats, reconciling their differences and slow dancing alongside them.

Jonathan Harvey

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