Blue Jean tells section 28 and homophobia with a passable melodrama.
Blue Jean, directed by first-time feature filmmaker Georgia Oakley, is set in the Thatcherite era of Britain, a time of political and sociological change, when the retrospectively disgraceful Section 28 of the Local Government Act 1988 law was passed.
Our lead, Jean (Rosy McEwen), a lesbian P.E. teacher, was affected by the law passing, which made it illegal to promote homosexuality either through the teachers, or the teaching materials, is fraught with fear of change and unspoken British hostility.
Blue Jean, therefore, plays as a slow melodrama, akin to soap operas of the period, where Jean is made helpless by the amounting pressure from adults. The ways she wishes to help an outwardly queer student, Lois (Lucy Halliday), who is facing similar segregation from her peers, whilst other students are battling their own closeted homosexuality.
Jean herself is also undergoing a transformation, dying her hair blonde and cutting it short, as a way of forming her own identity after a failed marriage, however, the stark image change is also a point of contention that could be used against her to fuel suspicions of her homosexuality.
Where Pride, a film set in the same period that explores homosexuality, offered a hopefulness in celebration, albeit one that reminds audiences constantly that Pride isn’t about lesbians, Blue Jean doesn’t pull its punches in making the audience aware of the issues remaining in the educational system until 2003 when the law was disregarded and the unspoken homophobia that lingered in every conversation or public space.
However, aside from its stance against government, society and institutionalism, Blue Jean offers little else to fully establish itself as a story that audiences will seek out for a repeated watch.
It is commendable though how director Oakley, cinematographer Victor Seguin, and production designer Soraya Gilanni work in unison to create an ever-present solemn cerulean tone in every frame. The blue, unashamedly tying together the thread of the title, and the sombre state of governmental affairs that linger in Jean’s life, as well as the saturation of the colour used to indicate self-awareness, even if, for a film that speaks so clearly on hiding in plain sight, the gimmick of blue is disappointingly quick to notice, and decipher.
Blue Jean has been nominated at the BAFTA 2023 film awards for its Outstanding Debut for both director Georgia Oakley, and producer Hélène Sifre, standing proudly alongside writer Katy Brand for Good Luck to You, Leo Grande and Aftersun for writer and director Charlotte Wells, with the winner to be announced on 19 February 2023.
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