Everybody’s Talking About Jamie

Review by Rich Cline | 4/5   MUST must see SEE

Everybody's Talking About Jamie
dir Jonathan Butterell
scr Tom MacRae, Dan Gillespie Sells
prd Peter Carlton, Mark Herbert
with Max Harwood, Sarah Lancashire, Lauren Patel, Richard E Grant, Sharon Horgan, Samuel Bottomley, Adeel Akhtar, Shobna Gulati, Ralph Ineson, Charlotte Salt, Zane Alsaroori, John McCrea
release UK/US 17.Sep.21
21/UK Film4 1h55

lancashire horgan akhtar

Is it streaming?

harwood and grant
Based on a true story previously told in both a TV doc and a hit West End musical, this film version is surprisingly intimate, a buoyant tale of people who find a connection and identity against the odds. Funny, affirming and even inspirational, the script never forgets that there's nothing easy about being a single mother, a gay teen, a Muslim or a drag queen in a society that ridicules outsiders.
In Sheffield, cheeky 16-year-old Jamie (Harwood) has a secret: all he wants to be is a drag queen. His mother Margaret (Lancashire) understands that Jamie marches to his own beat, so she plays peacemaker between Jamie and his dismissive father (Ineson). When Jamie finally confesses his aspiration to his Muslim pal Pritti (Patel), she encourages him to go for it. And he finds a mentor in fading performer Hugo (Grant). But Jamie's desire to wear a dress to prom puts him on a collision course with teacher Miss Hedge (Horgan) and class bully Dean (Bottomley).
Everyone knows Jamie is gay; he's coming out as a drag queen. While his search for himself plays as exuberantly happy, there are properly difficult elements in a narrative that resists the usual happy endings. This means that some characters appear or disappear along the way, and also that conflicts refreshingly don't come with standard movie resolutions. So a blast of glitter-filled musical cheekiness helps a lot, especially with lyrics as resonant as these.

Newcomer Harwood has terrific presence, so effortlessly charismatic that it's easy to see why the bullies struggle to take him on. His lanky physicality and soulful emotional honesty make Jamie hugely likeable, even when he acts like a typical teen. Lancashire is terrific as his quietly supportive mum, with the show's most moving song. Horgan has steely energy that mixes outer harshness with inner understanding. And Grant is such a fabulous scene-stealer as Hugo, and his alter-ego Loco Chanelle, that we want quite a lot more.

Indeed, the film's brisk pace makes it feel like we're skipping through the narrative. Although at least we see Jamie's inaugural drag performance (the stage show sidesteps it), so we know why everybody's talking about him the next day. And director Butterell cleverly includes scenes from the original 2011 documentary in the closing credits. This blast of authenticity drives the central themes home with real power, encouraging us to both live our most truthful lives and to embrace people around us for who they really are.

cert 12 themes, language, violence 24.Aug.21

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© 2021 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall