Blue Jean review: Georgia Oakley’s debut film is a triumph

Georgia Oakley’s remarkable directorial debut blue jean immediately turned heads when it hit the film festival circuit, receiving a BAFTA nomination before winning the People’s Choice Award at the Venice Film Festival. It also garnered four British Independent Film Awards, most notably its lead actress, Rosy McEwen, in a performance to marvel at. As Moonlight and the power of the dog before that, blue jean effectively captures a moment in time where its main character is a turning point.

It’s 1988 England in blue jeans and the Conservative government of Margaret Thatcher is making headlines in favor of a law that would stigmatize gays and lesbians. None of this sits well with Jean (McEwen), a gym teacher who suddenly feels forced to live a double life. Not that she needs that much pushing. Where Jean would rather hide in a corner and hide who she is, her girlfriend, Viv (Kerrie Hayes), heads in the opposite direction. She is out and proud. When a new student, Lois (Lucy Halliday) arrives, Jean is shaken to the core, forcing her to choose between living a real life or hiding in the shadows. Georgia Oakley’s England-set film isn’t afraid to swim in deep emotional waters. The director says more what she doesn’t say in a film that captivates her on all sides.

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Craft a compelling narrative

Georgia Oakley also wrote blue jean and anchors this story around a proposed English law that “bans the promotion of homosexuality,” something that would stay in place in some form until 2003. It’s known as Section 28, which has a creepy sound, like we’re suddenly in World War II and sending people to concentration camps. It’s both a gritty juxtaposition to present today, where one can see all the progress made with LGBTQ+ rights, and a haunting reminder that any way you look at it, extreme conservatism tends to limit rather than expand rights. of human beings.

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It packs an emotional punch here. Jean is more intrigued with Lois than in love with her new student. She perhaps sees a younger version of herself in Lois, who one day shows up at a gay club where Jean and her lesbian friends hang out. Jean ignores her in this first encounter, but the incident leaves her shaken and the events that follow at school, mainly between the girls, only intensify. Adding fuel to the fire is a spiteful girl named Siobhan (Lydia Page), who continually makes harsh comments to Jean and Lois, respectively.

Notice how well Oakley creates a steady rhythm in Blue jean. Situations and events build slowly, but each scene flows seamlessly into another. Glimpses into the lives of these characters ultimately illuminate very different people on very different paths of personal evolution. All while that clause of the Local Government Act hopes to ban “the promotion of homosexuality” by local authorities across the UK. It seems mind boggling that such a thing would happen in modern times. Then again, not really. Between the recent reversal of Roe v. Wade and the ongoing efforts to limit the rights of transgender people here in the United States, blue jean it’s both a fascinating period piece and a warning.

Acting at its best

Cast of Blue Jean

Seeing these actresses embody their roles and, in turn, disappear into them, gives hope. The “cinema” is not dead. It just doesn’t get as much attention as a wild superhero movie. The director draws a lot of nuance from each of her actors. As Lois, Lucy Halliday is a treasure to be experienced here: vulnerable yet tough as nails, determined and naive. She captures the hope and angst of adolescents to achieve winning ends.

Lydia Page aptly captures Siobhan’s insecurities. We have met this girl at some point in our lives. She’s more of an archetype than an over-the-top character, but Page handles the intricacies of the role quite well. Several scenes with Lois and Siobhan have been executed with such precision that these performers deserve all the praise they are getting. And as Jean, Rosy McEwen is a triumph, delivering a superb performance. You may remember seeing McEwen on the TV series. The Alienist. With blue jeans, the actor shows even more variety. This is truly the display of a master embodying his craft.

As for Section 28, it was eventually repealed, thanks to stellar activists protesting the Conservative government’s attempt to ban what they considered to be the “promotion” of homosexuality as “a feigned family relationship.” While the public does not witness that part of the story in blue jeans, its final moments are powerful and will stay with you long after the credits roll.

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