Screened as part of NZIFF 2021

Beautiful Thing 1996

Directed by Hettie Macdonald

An integral part of Bill Gosden’s Festival record was his focus on queer cinema and female directors – both were regularly at the forefront of his writing and programming, and at the same time completely customary of the film culture he set out to maintain. He banged the drum long before it was expected or easier to do so.

The memorable yet rarely seen Beautiful Thing qualifies on both counts, and is indeed a beautiful thing: a tender coming out, coming-of-age gem that goes against the grain of British miserabilism and standard unhappy endings. Top-and-tailing has never felt so wholesome in its exuberant view of queer love and acceptance.

UK In English
90 minutes DCP



Linda Henry
Glen Barry
Scott Neal
Tameka Empson
Ben Daniels


Tony Garnett
Bill Shapter


Jonathan Harvey, based on his stage play


Chris Seager


Don Fairservice


John Altman


Sydney, Auckland, Wellington, Toronto 1996


This ebullient and funny urban fairytale discovers true romance and worldly wisdom where most films tell us not to expect much of anything good: in a low-rise block of flats in South London. Jamie, Ste and Leah are three teenagers with three serious cases of the summertime blues. Jamie, who hates ball games, is constantly bullied at school. His schoolmate and neighbour Ste, on the other hand, is very good at ball games, but is constantly bullied at home – by his drunken Dad and his drug-dealer brother. Leah is the world’s most obsessive and annoying Mama Cass fan...

Keeping up the boys’ spirits and tending their bruises... is Jamie’s daunting mother, Sandra, who manages a pub. It’s Sandra who takes Ste under her wing when he’s taken one beating too many from his brother. Jamie, who secretly thinks he might be gay, is asked to share his bed with his battered friend... Jonathan Harvey’s script, from his own play, blends comedy and poignance as the two boys establish the boundaries of their fondness for each other – and begin to discover what it might mean to be gay...

The film’s Be Yourself spirit is as sharp and good-humoured as its repartee and as catchy as the Mama Cass soundtrack: “It’s Getting Better” vies with “Make Your Own Kind of Music” to be its anthem. Both are appropriate in every detail. All this, and it’s straight-friendly, too. You’d have to be a hard-hearted homophobe not to leave Beautiful Thing with a grin on your face and a song in your head. — Bill Gosden
Also screening as part of celebrating 50 years of the film festival in Wellington