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  • Documentaries - Breaking Free (21 mins)

Billy Elliot

Universal/Sony Pictures Home Entertainment . R4 . COLOR . 105 mins . M15+ . PAL


Starring new-comer Jamie Bell as the enjoyable Billy, the story unfolds in a Northern English town during the 1984 Miner’s Strike and focuses on Billy’s family and his personal desire to dance. A delightful Julie Walters (Mrs. Wilkinson) stars as Billy’s dancing teacher. As soon as he joins the classes, she notices the natural talent within Billy. His father finds out about the secret dance lessons, and stops the 50p a week to go to the so-called ‘boxing classes’ but Mrs. Wilkinson and Billy continue to see each other in a private one-on-one session, away from the prying eyes of others. Billy’s talent grows and she encourages Billy to try out for the Royal Ballet School in London. But now, Billy is stuck in between his struggling family and his desire to dance professionally.

Directed by Stage Director Stephen Daldry, who adds subtle and comic humour to the film, also supports Jamie Bell, Julie Walters and Gary Lewis (Billy’s father) to make them give their outstanding performances. During publicity of the theatrical release, it was compared to British films such as ‘Notting Hill’ and ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’ but Billy Elliot is able to stand out in a league of its own. The unique story and dazzling performances all add up to create a touching movie experience.


The video is 16x9 enhanced and in the 1.85:1 Widescreen aspect and is very clear and bright throughout the film with no irritating grain or film artefacts. There are a few scenes using heavy black shadow levels, which are superbly captured on this transfer, with no shimmering of colours. There is nothing wrong with this transfer, and all skin tones and colours come out full and rich and vibrant, and most importantly, life like.

Interestingly, as soon as the disc is put in the player, the film starts immediately, which is strange given we are used to the menus loading first. The packaging notes also state that the disc is a Dual Layered the layer change went un-noticeable.


The audio track is very clean and clear, with good levels in all channels. However, saying this, the surround channels were severely underused. During the opening sequence, the surround channels were used to play one surround sound effect, and that was the only sound effect out of those speakers. They are heavily used to add a richness to the music. The quality of the music is great, and when the surround speakers kick in they really add another level to the movie.

Generally the dialogue is very clear, but with the heavy Northern English accent, some lines are incredibly hard to understand. The dialogue levels are good, with the music or sound effects never overtaking the dialogue. The soundtrack is in Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, with English subtitles. Unfortunately there is no Audio Commentary which would be really interesting for a film such as this, possibly discussing ideas and inspiration for the film and even having the cast discuss the film.


The menus are just standard Universal static menus, with no movement or sound and using the Universal code of button symbols. The 21-minute ‘Breaking Free’ Documentary briefly shows the making of the film, from casting the role of Billy through to choreography and is theatrical premiere. This documentary is in fullscreen, showing clips from the movie in the 1.85:1 Widescreen format therefore not being 16x9 enhanced. The Theatrical Trailers is a touching trailer which is aided by a moving and melodic song from Enya. The trailer is 16x9 Enhanced. The Production Notes compliment the ‘Breaking Free’ Documentary, and could have somehow been incorporated into the documentary rather than having text on screen. These notes say nothing too new that wasn’t already covered in ‘Breaking Free.’ The Cast and Crew notes are very brief, and only show limited information on only half of the major roles.


Universal have done very well with this transfer but they still need to work on their menus. The soundtrack is really exciting and energetic and adds to the atmosphere on-screen, and the clear video transfer is simply a delight to watch. Easily the best British film since ‘Four Weddings and a Funeral’ on a delightful transfer from Universal. The extras are a bit disappointing, but still are interesting and informative.

A note for the slightly emotional people: keep a box of tissues handy.

  • LINK: http://www.dvd.net.au/review.cgi?review_id=584
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      And I quote...
    "The best British film since ‘Four Weddings and A Funeral’ on a delightful transfer from Universal."
    - Martin Friedel
      Review Equipment
    • DVD Player:
          REC R-800c
    • TV:
          TEAC 68cm CTV
    • Speakers:
          Cambrige pc works
    • Centre Speaker:
          Cambrige pc works
    • Surrounds:
          Cambrige pc works
    • Audio Cables:
          Standard RCA
    • Video Cables:
          standard s-video
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