Eleven-year-old Billy is an aspiring ballet dancer who comes from a tough mining community in Northern England. No working-class English man is going to be happy to hear that their son wants to do something stereotypically effeminate, and Billy's widowed father, Jackie, does not approve of his son's interest.
But Billy is passionate about dancing—so passionate that he continues to dance even when strictly forbidden to do so. Even though he is surrounded by no male dancer role models, he believes that dancing is what he is meant to do. As he says at the end of his audition for ballet school, the feeling of dancing is like "electricity." Billy is understanding, sensitive, and imaginative, even though he is surrounded by violence and difficulty. Sometimes the anger and violence that surrounds Billy bubbles up in him, and he can become enraged and destructive. Ultimately, however, Billy is a sensitive and deeply feeling individual, a boy who wants to escape the roughness of the world through self-expression and movement.
Jackie is the archetypal Northern English working class man, a miner and a widow. He has explosive emotions that come out at inopportune moments, especially as he struggles to raise two boys and look after his aging mother. Underneath his gruffness and bouts of anger, Jackie is a deeply feeling man who wants what's best for his family. He butts heads with both of his sons; with Tony because of his radical union activity, and with Billy because of his love for dance.
Later, however, Jackie sees Billy dance and realizes what an outstanding talent he is. Seeing that Billy's passion is not just some kind of pipe dream, Jackie works tirelessly to help ensure that Billy will be able to follow his passions. Throughout the film, Jackie evolves in his attitudes, and eventually feels immense pride for his son when Billy wins a place at the school.
The older of the Elliot boys, Tony is a bully in every area of his life. He bullies his little brother, and bullies people at work, passionate and violent in his philosophies about the strikes taking place. While he is initially horrified to learn that Billy likes ballet, he eventually comes around and supports his brother's talent, recognizing that Billy has something special.
Sandra teaches a ballet class at the gymnasium. She recognizes talent in Billy immediately and encourages him to pursue dance seriously. While she believes in Billy, she never coddles him and is a tough critic, pushing him to be the best dancer he can be. Sandra was once a dancer herself, but has given up on her dreams, now unfulfilled in her marriage. Her lack of fulfillment propels her to look after Billy even more and push him to do the things she never got to.
While she does not make it especially evident, Sandra is a loving and generous woman who takes Billy under her wing as if he was her own son, even offering to pay for his audition for school. Sandra changes the trajectory of Billy's life in crucial ways, and helps him fulfill his destiny.
Billy's grandmother lives with the Elliots. When we meet her, she is suffering with senility and loneliness, but in her youth she had dreams of becoming a dancer, just like Billy.
Michael lives in Billy's neighborhood and is his best friend. Early in the film, Billy sees him dressing up in women's clothing, and later in the film, Michael comes out to him as gay, and as having a crush on Billy. Billy accepts him, and his admission does not hurt their friendship. In fact, Billy takes Michael to the ballet studio, gives him a tutu and shows him how to dance. He is one of Billy's champions and his closest friend.
Billy Elliot Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Billy Elliot is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
When Jackie crosses the picket line in an attempt to make money for Billy's audition, Tony confronts him and the father and son, who have been driven apart by their differing attitudes towards the strike, are rendered vulnerable around the...