What’s a queer film that hits you right in the gut? I’m talking about that film that made you come out, or reaffirm who you are. For me that film is Beautiful Thing (1996), the tender coming of age story between a young outcast and a high school jock who fall in love with each other in the outskirts of London. It was a straightforward romance! When that film came out, I was on my way to becoming a geologist. I didn’t know what to pursue and a career in the sciences seem like a good option that would set the bar for my siblings, and satisfy my parents.
When I stumbled on Beautiful Thing, the film showed me that you didn’t need others to validate who you are, and it also demonstrated the amazing power of cinema. It helped me decide to become a filmmaker. I couldn’t stop thinking about this film, Scott Neal and Glen Berry gripped me! I must’ve watched it like five times before another queer film, Lilies, wrestled me away. Looking back and knowing what I know now about cinema, Beautiful Thing is very conventional in the way it was told. Lilies (1996), an equally powerful film, was unconventional film and seen by fewer people. It utilized magic realism, and employed cross dressing as flashback tool.
I can’t help but feel if Beautiful Thing was told in a non-conventional manner that its message would not be as profound and accessible to so many people. What is the modern day equivalent to Beautiful Thing?
The stars of Beautiful Thing, Glen Berry and Scott Neal, have gone on to do very different things. Berry has retired from acting in 2003 and is now car sales manager while Neal continues to act. What is ironic for Neal is due to the success of Beautiful Thing, he is often cast in gay roles even though he’s not gay. I guess it is the price you pay for being such an inspiring figure to so many of us back then. Hopefully, he continues to inspire many more young adults in the future.