“Blue Jean”


Rotten Tomatoes (3.5/5), Metacritic (7/10), Letterboxd (3.5/5), Imdb.com (7/10), TMDB.com (3.5/5)

It wasn’t all that long ago when the LGBTQ+ community not only didn’t have legal protections for its rights, but also faced blatant discrimination against its constituents, prejudiced initiatives aimed at denying them equal treatment under the law and even subjecting them to lawfully sanctioned ostracism. This was true even in “civilized” and “progressive” societies like those found in North America and Europe. And it prompted individuals to live in fear of losing their jobs and leaving them open to ridicule without ramifications, not to mention disrespect and mistrust from their own families. Those chilling conditions are ominously brought to light in this period piece drama set in the UK in the late 1980s, when Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government sought the passage of Section 28, legislation aimed at prohibiting activities openly promoting homosexuality, a bill carrying wide-sweeping implications for the LGBTQ+ community. Many of its constituents, like a young lesbian physical education teacher (Rosy McEwen), retreated into the closet to keep out of sight. But those efforts derailed whatever social progress had been made, damaging those individuals’ self-esteem and creating a divisive schism between those who vociferously demanded justice and those who chose to keep a low profile to protect themselves, as evidenced by the experiences of the teacher and her out and proud girlfriend (Kerrie Hayes). Writer-director Georgia Oakley’s debut feature does a fine (if somewhat predictable) job of illustrating this rift and the effects it had on both the public and personal lives of these people, an effort that earned the film a 2022 BAFTA Award nomination for Best Debut by a British Writer, Director or Producer. Admittedly, the picture’s opening act meanders a bit, but, once it gets on track, when the emergence of various damning revelations threatens to blow things wide open, it steadily grows more powerful and heartfelt, qualities supported by the fine performances of the cast, solid writing, and its skillfully crafted atmospheric cinematography and production design. It also provides viewers with a potent cautionary tale about the effects of initiatives like Section 28 (which was in force from 1988 to 2003) and the parallels to this legislation that are currently under consideration in various US jurisdictions. It effectively shows us how Jean became so blue – and how we should seek to prevent the same from happening to the rest of us.