Beautiful Thing might be the most beloved of all the gay-youth movies released in the late ’90s, which also included Edge of Seventeen and Get Real (which was an almost note-for-note replay of Beautiful Thing’s blueprint). It almost certainly has the largest cult fan base. One obvious reason for this is that Beautiful Thing is grounded in a realistic sense of adolescent agony and how it gives way to the rapture of new romance that. For all their attempts to paint gay life as being carefree, other films in this mini genre completely missed this point. Instead of simply pinning it on his developing notions of his own sexuality, screenwriter Jonathan Harvey’s scenario makes the torment that only child Jaime (Glen Berry) goes through a much more universal and generic toil. The central plotline concerns Jaime’s attempts to start a romance with hesitant boy-next-door Ste (Scott Neal) but a series of complex and flawed characters occupy the periphery of the story, first and foremost Jaime’s vehemently protective mother Sandra (Linda Henry, who would have won an Oscar were this a perfect world), who is simultaneously the cause and relief of Jaime’s distress. Sandra’s tough love often seems to border on the abusive, but she still has nothing on Ste’s father, who thrashes the boy with regularity and encourages his older brother to do likewise. Jaime’s neighbor on the other side of the housing project is Leah, who obsesses over and attempts to channel Cass Elliot, adds to the problems when she learns of the taboo relationship unfolding between Jaime and Ste. These subplots aren’t sideshow attractions to divert attention away from the main story. While Get Real’s filmmakers seemingly create such distractions as if they themselves were averting their eyes from the love story they set out to film, Beautiful Thing’s subplots don’t divert attention away from the main story. Every thread contributes to the film’s overall sense of whimsy until, in a scene set to Elliot’s exhilarating “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” Jaime and Ste reach a tingling, breathless romantic apex.
The anamorphic image transfer is, like the movie, strong but unassuming. Struck from a mostly clean print with little-to-no scratches and a negligible amount of film grain, the image on this disc has a way of sneaking up on you with its surprisingly rich representation of cinematographer Chris Seager's color palette. This is no more evident than in the final scene, which almost feels like a woozy fantasy. The sound mix is also mostly simple, with the exception of its presentation of Cass Elliot's exquisitely languorous summer music, which pours forth from the speakers like newfound love.
Only three trailers (for All About My Mother, The Broken Hearts Club and The Celluloid Closet) buttress this DVD.
The tough but tender Beautiful Thing is one of the most honest and moving gay youth dramas in recent memory.