Cinema Review: Blue Jean

Posted 8 months ago in Cinema Reviews

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In 1988, Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government passed the Local Government Act, in which Section 28 prohibited in any school the teaching “of the acceptability of homosexuality as a pretended family relationship.” Enacted following the 1987 general election, the amendment was first forwarded by MP Jill Knight.

Knight claimed that the Labour Party wanted the American book Young, Gay and Proud added to school curriculums. Believing this would corrupt children, the Conservatives used her claim to run an aggressive electoral campaign, championing themselves as the defenders of “traditional moral values.”

One of the battlegrounds in the 1980s British culture war, the introduction of Section 28 was a moment in history that draws a plethora of parallels with discriminatory practices faced by the LGBTQ communities at large in the present. And in Blue Jean, the feature-length directorial debut from Georgia Oakley, the harm it wrought is utilised to create a period drama which has lost no ounce of relevance.

Set in 1988, Blue Jean tells the story of Jean, a P.E. teacher, who in the aftermath of her divorce, endeavours to hide her relationship with another woman from the school faculty. Largely, Jean succeeds in wearing the mask in public. She maintains a distance between her professional and private life by sharing few personal details with her colleagues and remaining politely aloof.

Jean has found herself in a comfortable rhythm while walking a tightrope. But, upon spotting one of her students in the local gay and lesbian bar, she is confronted by the precarity of her own living situation. Any overlap between these two worlds could jeopardise her career. So, when faced with a moral dilemma, in which she may need to out herself to protect the student, Jean is forced to weigh up whether to protect herself or act for a larger cause.

An understated psychological drama, Blue Jean conveys the agonising toil of a political fight through intimate everyday conversations, subtle facial expressions, and a red-and-blue colour scheme, which both illustrates the duality of Jean and the wider debate between traditional and progressive values. Director Oakley does not examine the past by recounting the fraught moment in great factual detail. Instead, she encourages her audience to feel it, and recognise in it a part of themselves.

Words: Michael Lanigan

Blue Jean

Director: Georgia Oakley

Talent: Rosy McEwen, Kerrie Hayes, Lucy Halliday, Lydia Page

Release Date: February 10


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Dublin Theater Festival -23 – MPU


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