‘Young people have such vulnerable minds…’
Earlier this year I watched a bunch of films from the original era of kitchen sink realism. Films that tackled working class issues in a gritty and authentic style. With subgenre master Ken Loach surely on the verge of retirement having just released his latest film at the age of 87, there aren’t enough working-class voices in British cinema flying the flag for real human stories. Enter writer-director Georgia Oakley and Blue Jean…
Set against the backdrop of the Thatcher government seeking to implement Section 28 (a series of laws that would prohibit the ‘promotion’ of homosexuality) Jean Newman (Rosy McKewan), a passionate PE teacher in a school in the northeast of England, struggles to hide her own sexuality from her colleagues and students. When Lois Jackson (Lucy Halliday), a new student who is also reticent to reveal her sexual identity, threatens to expose both of them, Jean must make a decision about who she is.
Boasting a number of impressive performances and a heartfelt and achingly sad script, Blue Jean is a modern update of Jeanette Winterson’s Oranges Are Not the Only Fruit via the aforementioned kitchen sink realism of Loach and Andrea Arnold. Both McKewan and Halliday are making their cinematic debuts and while the former is the beating heart of the film and delivers a nuanced and assertive performance in the titular role, it is Halliday who most impresses and it is her character that acts as a catalyst for the film’s emotional core. Oakley’s screenplay asks the audience to consider the many different hats that minorities have to wear. Jean juggles her responsibilities as a teacher, a sister, a caregiver and a role model and it is this struggle that defines the film as a whole.
Blue Jean is a compelling and important story that is also entertaining and captivating. Worthy of all the plaudits it has received.