Review by Sean Boelman
There are some films that, the moment you finish watching them, you know you have just seen something essential. Georgia Oakley’s Blue Jean is one of the best movies of the year thus far — partially because it deals with some important, timely themes, but also because it is also just astoundingly made all-around.
The film follows a closeted phys ed teacher in 1998 who begins to crack when a student threatens to expose her sexuality. It’s an extremely hard-to-watch movie, but it is extraordinarily relevant and done with such a gentle hand that it’s hard not to be in awe of what filmmaker Georgia Oakley has created.
Many films attempt to tackle locally relevant themes in a way that is universally resonant, but few have managed to do it as successfully as Blue Jean. Although the movie is set in Britain in the 1980s, the topics of homophobia and bigotry still ring horrifyingly true today. Especially given the wave of recent anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation in the United States — such as Ron DeSantis’s “Don’t Say Gay” bill — there arguably could not be a better time for this movie to come out than now.
Oakley’s script also manages to juggle an intricate balancing act when it comes to the film’s tone. On one hand, we have what almost feels like an edge-of-your-seat thriller, as Jean lives in constant fear of being exposed to her coworkers and the community. But on the other hand, we have a poignant, sometimes even devastating queer romance against the backdrop of a tumultuous historical moment.
It’s not often that we see an LGBTQIA+ character written as tenderly yet confidently as this. It’s good to see an LGBTQIA+ movie about a closeted character who is not exactly questioning their sexuality or identity. Instead, we focus on other issues that are important to the community. Oakley has also written supporting characters that are well-nuanced, and while they exist to build on the protagonist’s arc,
Rosie McEwen’s performance in the leading role is exceptional in a totally understated way. The emotions the character experiences throughout the film run the gamut from sadness to anger and even love, and McEwen captures each and every one with grace and ease. However, one would be remiss to dismiss young Lucy Halliday’s performance, which is also great in its own right.
The cinematography is great, with a feeling of beauty to it, but also a keen eye for getting the most emotion possible out of the scene. However, the technical aspect of the movie that shines the most is the soundtrack, which is full of wonderful needle drops that create an atmosphere of longing for the film.
Simply put, Blue Jean is the most zeitgeisty movie of the year — if not the decade so far. Even though it is a period piece, its themes are essential, and the writing, direction, and performances ensure that the film will have a profound impact on viewers.
Blue Jean hits theaters on June 9.