In this film review for the 63rd Thessaloniki International Film Festival (TIFF), I will assess the plot of the movie Blue Jean (2022) directed by Georgia Oakley and I will evaluate which aspects the attention is focused on. The film presents the life of the high school PE teacher Jean in 1988 in Northern England. During that time Margaret Thatcher’s conservative government enacted clause 28, which forbids the “promotion of homosexuality” in the United Kingdom. This resulted in immense stigmatization and denunciation against gays and lesbians. As the law might jeopardise Jean’s job, she has to live a closeted life at work. The film provides a significant insight into what it meant to be homosexual in an oppressive system during the 1980s.
The movie centres around the life of the protagonist Jean, a well-respected employee on the job. She is professional, motivated and loves to work with her students. The film begins by introducing the audience to Jean’s work life. Nobody of her colleagues suspects that she lives a double life. During the week Jean lives the life of a notable teacher, on the weekends, however, she escapes into the gay nightlife scene. The movie portrays Jean’s difficult relationship with her sister, a woman that fits society’s standard perfectly, whereas Jean struggles with her identity as a divorced, closeted Lesbian. Meanwhile, Jean’s girlfriend Liv lives proud and openly with her sexuality and has little compassion for Jean’s struggles. The arrival of a new student threatens to expose Jean’s secret and changes the dynamics of her life as she must face her problems.
In Blue Jean, the viewer can see a portrait of a woman battling with her identity. Although the film is not easy fare on most stretches, one still had to grin now and then. The pacing of the movie is very slow, and it refrains from complicated plot lines. The viewer follows just a few characters in daily situations. The small situations introduced aim to discuss bigger issues such as homophobia and microaggressions against the LGBTQIA+-Community in the heteronormative patriarchal society.
Blue Jean was Rosy McEwen’s debut in a leading role. The actress plays the role of Jean so convincingly that the viewer forms an attachment with the character. Every struggle, pain, and discomfort she feels, the audience feels as well, which makes the movie gripping like a thriller. Georgia Oakley created a piece of film that captivates with an authentic 1980s look and atmospheric pictures. Although the movie plays in the 80s, the film’s topic is still relevant in today’s time and resonates with innumerable lives. The law of clause 28 was only abolished in 2003 and homophobia is still happening daily around the world. The movie is merely looking at the experience of a singular lesbian woman in the UK, but it represents the struggles of so many more.
Cast: Rosy McEwen (Jean), Kerrie Hayes (Viv), Lucy Halliday (Lois), Lydia Page (Siobhan), Stacy Abalogun (Ace)