Blue Jean

Blue Jean
Blue Jean
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Section 28 remains one of the most shameful laws in history. This was a law created by Margaret Thatcher’s conservative administration that essentially legalized homophobia by denying educators the freedom to discuss homosexuality openly, thus creating a climate of mistrust and fear that has continued into this generation (England only repealed it in 2003). First-time writer-director Georgia Oakley places her own angle within the political struggle here, depicting Jean’s story (Rosy McEwen in her first ever leading role), one woman frozen at an epochal moment. we are talking about Blue Jean movie.

The world she captures is foreign not just to the filmmakers but also to most of the young cast in front of the camera. Section 28 was passed in 1988 which is when Oakley was born. And yet it seems straight out of those days, straining with period detail for better or worse. Victor Seguin’s cinematography is sumptuously grainy and muted, with an era appropriate aesthetics enhanced further by Kirsty Halliday’s sharp costuming. Oakley also makes no bones about turning this into an ‘issues’ film, something that decade could never resist: TV and radio have all day long “discussions” on homosexuality while advertising boards around Jean’s neighborhood shout loudly things like “are your children being taught moral values?”

Despite moments where its references to conservatism are too on-the-nose, the film avoids mere didacticism. It is a knotty and complex portrayal of character concerned more with creating empathy for what is hidden away than anything else. There are questions without easy answers or mentors or precedents when you’re caught between two worlds.

This internal struggle is exquisitely portrayed by newcomer McEwen as its title character. She appears on screen nearly through every scene managing to balance her vulnerability under strain with real world sophistication and calmness. Her debut leading part gives her fabulous presence; indeed this movie shares its title with a David Bowie song from 1984, and her Jean has a touch of New Romantic era Bowie androgyny to her with the bleached crop and pastel clothes. Oakley also doesn’t neglect to paint a picture of a queer life that is lived-in — from the simple joyfulness of a seedy gay bar enveloped by the safety and acceptance of its patrons within that community, to ordinary curtain-twitching in the larger neighborhood, suspicious automatically because it’s different.

The core is very sad in this movie which is further underscored by an elegant, lush score by Chris Roe for heightened melodrama – but it concludes by celebrating the subculture out of which it was born. To sum up its untidy portrayal there might be a message here: amidst institutionalized racism or any other form of bigotry, there’s always room for hope or even happiness.

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