Beautiful Thing tells the tale of two best friends – Jamie (Glen Berry) and Ste (Scott Neal) – the former more adept to staying outside than staying in class, while his mother Sandra juggles career promotion and her hippy boyfriend Tony; and the latter being the sporty type, popular with the girls although suffering at the hand of his brutal, drunken father.
When things get too much for Ste, he seeks refuge in Sandra’s flat where he ends up sleeping “top ‘n’ tail” with Jamie and it’s from there that a new relationship develops, part of it finding a new use for Peppermint Foot lotion to aid a soothful night’s sleep, unless their dreams are interrupted by their carefree teenage next-door neighbour Leah, whose Mama Cass records find their own volume level.
This film is one of the film world’s great rarities – a gay drama, not usually high on the list of most film company’s schedules, which doesn’t patronise the viewer, nor does it sensationalise the topic like Channel 4’s Queer As Folk in which everyone has money to burn and morals to ignore.
At some times it behaves like a take-off of the Bronski Beat music video, Smalltown Boy, but this heart-warming drama will appeal to anyone who will give a chance to something a bit different. There are some great one-liners, but none of which can be featured here since the language is a bit on the fruity side.
Overall, Hettie Macdonald‘s directorial debut is a captivating piece of film-making with a superb cast – most of whom I’ve never seen before – and I, for one, am really looking forward to her next film. Anyone who can make a council estate look like a glamourous place to live deserves to be commended.
And yes, the Scott Neal in the cast is the same Scott Neal who plays young PC Luke Ashton in ITV’s The Bill.
This disc has one of the best pictures available bringing out the locations and the fleshtones in crisp, clear detail as well as the flamboyant colour schemes – just take a look at Jamie’s house which has a different major colour for each room, a bit like the Simpsons house. The average bitrate is a good 6.18Mb/s, peaking at 10Mb/s. The film is presented in anamorphic format, which provides extra resolution to benefit widescreen televisions.
However, while the film is in its original theatrical ratio of 1.85:1, the box is confusing as it says “Extra features – 4:3”, but no fullscreen version is available – not that I’m missing it.
The Dolby Digital 2.0 (Stereo) soundmix is fine but your surround setup won’t get much of a workout. That said, the music from the Mamas and the Papas tracks in addition to the dialogue all comes across very clear indeed and there’s a subtle use of the song “You are 16, going on 17″…
There are 17 chapters spread throughout the 86-minute film and it could use a few more. Like other recent VCI titles, the chapter selection menu lists chapters 2-17 as 1-16, as it omits the start of the film. The disc also contains the original theatrical trailer.
There’s just the one language on this disc – English – and again there are no subtitles for no good reason at all.
Extras: Extensive biographies and filmographies are available for Glen Berry, Scott Neal, Ben Daniels, Linda Henry and writer Jonathan Harvey.
The menu has a small amount of animation, in very subtle fashion, the main menu playing the Mamas and the Papas’ “It’s Getting Better“, which serves as the film’s opening theme tune.
As always, on playing the disc you can’t skip past the VCI logo and copyright info.
Running time: 86 minutes
Cat.no: VCD 0009
Region(s): 2, PAL
Sound: Dolby Digital 2.0 (Dolby Surround)
Disc Format: DVD5
Director: Hettie Macdonald
Producers: Tony Garnett, Bill Shapter
Screenplay: Jonathan Harvey
Jamie Gangel: Glen Berry
Ste Pearce: Scott Neal
Sandra Gangel: Linda Henry
Leah Russell: Tameka Empson
Tony: Ben Daniels
Marlene: Anna Karen
Miss Chauhan: Meera Syal
Gina: Julie Smith
Reviewer of movies, videogames and music since 1994. Aortic valve operation survivor from the same year. Running DVDfever.co.uk since 2000. Nobel Peace Prize winner 2021.