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Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners
Posted May 17, 2011 to photo album "Like Father and Son, from Chaplin to the Beginners"
Mike Mills poignant portrait of a father and son relationship inspired us to look back at how films from Chaplin to Beginners have handled this paternal subject.
Billy Elliot (2000)
In Billy Elliot, director Stephen Daldry's Oscar-nominated, coming-of-age movie, the eponymous hero (Jamie Bell) must fight against his father’s rigid, conventional views of masculinity. Growing up in a mining town in the North of England during the Thatcherite 1980s, there were certain expectations about what kind of extracurricular activities were acceptable for a teenage boy. And, unfortunately for Billy, ballet––which he discovers he has an innate ability for––is not one of those activities. In the midst of a miners strike, the last thing Billy's widowed father, Jackie (Gary Lewis), wants to find out is that his son has secretly been doing a girlie thing like ballet, rather than the boxing he signed up for. However, after Billy's shameful secret is revealed, we see Jackie grappling with himself––and the fear that his son might be gay––and ultimately coming to the realization that, at a time when misery is all around, he just wants his son to be happy. He then makes a huge sacrifice, and does the unthinkable by crossing the picket line in order to give Billy a chance at making it, and memorably saying, “He might be a fucking genius, for all we know.” For Jamie Bell, the gifted young dancer-turned-actor who played Billy, a lack of paternal support was nothing new: his father left before he was born, and he was brought up by his mother and sister. "I don't miss him," Bell said in a recent interview. "How could I? You don't miss what you never had." However, during the course of making Billy Elliot, Stephen Daldry took it upon himself to act as Bell's father figure. Bell, who lived with Daldry for some time after filming, said of their relationship in 2002, “I would kind of like him to be my dad and he'd like me to be his son.”