Film Review: Blue Jean | Under the Radar Magazine Under the Radar | Music Blog for the Indie Music Magazine
Monday, June 17th, 2024  

Blue Jean

Studio: Magnolia Pictures / Altitude Films
Director: Georgia Oakley

Jun 09, 2023 Web Exclusive
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Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean is a complex look at gay life in late 1980s Britain, specifically under the conservative tide caused by Margaret Thatcher’s homophobic policies.

Set in 1988–the same year that Thatcher’s Section 28 legislation, banning the “promotion of homosexuality,” was passed–the film follows Jean (Rosy McEwen), a physical education instructor. At school, Jean runs the netball (a sport similar to basketball) team and does not interact with her colleagues during or after school hours. In her free time, she frequents a lesbian bar with her friends and her girlfriend, Viv (Kerrie Hayes). Jean is aware of the politics surrounding Thatcher’s prime ministership–she constantly witnesses the homophobic actions of her colleagues–but, for the most part, she balances her two lives well enough to get by.

Things quickly change when a new student, Lois (Lucy Halliday), transfers into Jean’s school. Lois is instantly bullied by the other girls, which only intensifies after she decides to join the netball team. As Jean and Lois spend more time together, Jean’s work and personal lives begin to mold together, complicating things for both herself and those around her.

While Blue Jean expertly explores the complexities around gay life in Thatcher’s England, the film’s narrative is relatively straightforward. The story unfolds linearly, and Oakley doesn’t stray much from the central tensions between Jean and those around her. This decision allows the film to operate as an excellent character study, particularly in its second half, when Jean must confront harsh decisions to decide which one of her two lives is more important for her in the long run. Centering around a single character also keeps the film focused, using Jean’s personal experiences and interactions to speak on societal life overall.

Blue Jean is also slow-burning. The pacing highlights the idea that each little moment matters, as audiences discover more of Jean’s personality through each of her actions, whatever they may be. This can make the film’s first half–particularly, the sequences of narrative exhibition before Lois arrives at the school–somewhat difficult to sit through. But, the steady rise in the film’s stakes pays off excellently in its second half, when Jean’s actions and lines of dialogue become greater, reflecting both who she is as a character and who society has forced her character to be. That type of introspection wouldn’t be possible if the film unfolded at a quicker pace, making the film’s conclusion rewarding–even if its ending feels a bit rushed and underdeveloped.

Blue Jean boasts incredible performances across the board. McEwen is excellent in the film’s leading role, perfectly capturing Jean’s complexities and personality changes as the film’s narrative unfolds. Her performance is as layered as her character is, oscillating between distinct tones in a way that makes the film even more effective. Hayes and Halliday are great as well, making their characters’ complex relationships with Jean constantly believable and impactful.

Author rating: 6.5/10

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