A closeted PE teacher living in Thatcher’s Britain strives to keep her work and private lives separate, but when a new pupil sees her on a night out, she must reckon with how she chooses to live her life as a queer woman.
Screened as part of NZIFF 2023
Jean (Rosy McEwan), a newly divorced PE secondary school teacher in Newcastle, is well-liked by her students and colleagues. At night, she hangs out with her girlfriend Viv (Kerries Hayes) at the local lesbian bar with their friends, though Jean is still uncomfortable with being seen with a "comfortably out" Viv around her sister. Living in Margaret Thatcher’s Britain in 1988, where Section 28 had been passed prohibiting teachers from “promoting homosexuality”, the apolitical Jean is adamant about keeping her work and private lives separate. However, when Jean’s new student Lois (Lucy Halliday) spots her at the lesbian bar, her carefully constructed double life is suddenly under threat. Jean must decide whether to continue to live in fear or make peace with her own queer identity in the face of rampant homophobia.
Georgia Oakley’s stunning debut, beautifully shot on 16mm, feels like an artefact from the 1980s with its colour palette and synth-rock soundtrack. McEwan gives a deeply moving and nuanced performance of a queer woman struggling to be herself when prejudice is encouraged by those in power, a past that feels all too familiar today. – Vicci Ho
“A supremely accomplished debut feature from writer-director Georgia Oakley, Blue Jean captures a specific moment in British history with almost uncanny accuracy. The graininess of the photography, the well-chosen soundtrack of punchy 1980s electro-socialist pop anthems, the way that Jean’s costumes subtly shift as she crosses between the straight world and the gay one: it’s as persuasive as it is powerful.” – Wendy Ide, The Observer